Kathleen Hanna's life story is filled with enough incident and drama to fill a week's worth of feature-length documentaries. She survived a strange and sometimes abusive upbringing, turned to feminist art and music as a means of self-expression and fomented what she deemed "Revolution Grrl Style Now" through her bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. And for the past eight years, Hanna has dealt with the effects of Lyme disease. Narrowing all of it down to a 90-minute documentary was no mean feat. Yet director Sini Anderson's pin-sharp vision hones this epic life journey into a film that is as empowered, energetic and fierce as its subject. The Punk Singer (showing as part of the NW Film Center's 31st annual Reel Music Festival) holds true to the core principles that Hanna wrote about in her fanzines and lyrics. Anderson doesn't define Hanna by the struggles of the past and present, but by the impact she has had and continues to have on women of all ages. And the key voices in this film (outside of Hanna's husband, Adam Horowitz of the Beastie Boys) are all female, an especially rare feat in a music documentary. Seeing Hanna at her most fragile moments is heartbreaking, but that only serves to amp up the excitement of seeing her back in control.
Critic's Grade: A
SEE IT: The Punk Singer plays at NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium at 9 pm Friday, Oct. 11. For a full Reel Music Festival schedule, see nwfilm.org.