SXSW Film Day 6: That Girl Think She's the Queen of the NeighborhoodA column article, Shot For Shot by: Nick Hanover
After taking in four films the day prior, I figured I could relax a bit on Day Six, sticking to just one film and a few music events. The film I chose was Sini Anderson's documentary The Punk Singer, an intimate examination of the life and career of Kathleen Hanna, frontwoman for groups like Le Tigre and Bikini Kill and a feminist icon. Before the film started, Anderson came out to introduce the work, stating that she had worked on it for three years, so hopefully it was clear how important the subject was to her.
Anderson's devotion to the film was of course abundantly clear, and that devotion wasn't limited strictly to her. Everyone that Anderson assembled for interviews spoke about Hanna with intense respect and admiration, calling out her energy and strength, which made the sections of the film where Hanna speaks about why she had to leave music in 2005 all the more heartbreaking. Hanna suffered from Lyme Disease for five years before she was diagnosed and as a result, the disease became late stage and had a far more devastating impact on her health than it otherwise would have.
Seeing Hanna, who has always been a ball of energy and who has had a phenomenal command of language and performance since she first appeared in the Olympia art scene, battling for control of her speech, left nearly immobile from fatigue was immensely troubling. Like a lot of people, Kathleen Hanna had a tremendous impact on my life, with the combination of her attitude, spirit and talent inspiring me as a teenager to not only start a band but to be more aware of what I could do to promote feminism. Knowing that such a strong figure has had to struggle with a terrifying illness that essentially sidetracked her career for a time made me appreciate her even more, and her unwillingness to give up makes her even stronger and powerful in my eyes.
Like Miss Representation before it, The Punk Singer is an important work with an even more important message, and it shouldn't be considered a niche film. This isn't strictly a movie about Kathleen Hanna for her fans, this is a documentary about what it takes to devote yourself to a cause and to bettering the society you live in. You don't need to have grown up with Hanna's music to enjoy it, all you need is a willingness to listen to what Hanna and her peers have to say. Anderson said in the q and a afterwards that she felt we were living in a time that is a lowpoint for feminism and while I don't necessarily agree with that statement, I do feel that films like The Punk Singer have the ability to provoke a stronger reaction in audiences than more traditional methods of political discourse. Given that Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer also played at SXSW and the subjects within it specifically called out the riot grrl movement as inspiration for their work, I feel that Kathleen Hanna and her riot grrl peers are due for a resurgence. And I know I'm not the only one who'd like to see what the second wave of riot grrl creates.
Nick Hanover doesn't want to set the world on fire, unless he has to, which seems increasingly more likely each day. As Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, he most looks forward to making subliterate internet commenters angry and forcing his record collection on unsuspecting readers through his comic, film and television reviews and miscellaneous other pop culture pieces for the site. He promises to update Panel Panopticon more this year, but you can always find his odd rants about his potentially psychopathic roommate on twitter @Nick_Hanover or explore the world of his musical alter ego at Fitness.