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Review: 'The Punk Singer'

December 5, 2013 4:10 p.m.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando reviews the documentary, "The Punk Singer."

Related Story: Review: 'The Punk Singer'


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: “Punk Singer” is a new documentary opening at the Digital Gym Cinema. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says it focuses on the dynamic lead singer of Bikini Kill, a feminist and activist who mysteriously stopped singing in 2005.

Kathleen Hanna may not be a household name and that’s as it should be for an artist who stood outside the establishment in order to attack it. She had something to say and she demanded to be heard.

CLIP I am your worst nightmare come to life, I am going to tell everyone.

What she wanted to tell everyone was both personal and universal. She didn’t want to be put into a box of stereotypes, she wanted to challenge them with humor, anger, passion, and a ferocious talent. In the new documentary “Punk Singer” she recalls a catalyzing moment.

CLIP I discovered Kathy Acker and went to this workshop that she did and she asked why do you want to write and I said because nobody has ever listened to me my whole life and I have all this stuff I want to say and she said then why are you doing spoken word, you should be in a band because nobody goes to spoken word but people go to see bands. So I went home and started a band.

The band was Bikini Kill and Hanna found herself at the forefront of the Riot Grrl movement. “Punk Singer” celebrates her music, activism, and rebellious spirit. The film also explores how late stage Lyme disease prompted her to abruptly stop performing in 2005. She has since returned to music and “Punk Singer” reminds us of hers contribution to both music and the feminist movement. It’s also an intimate portrait of one woman’s refusal to settle for conformity or the status quo.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.