This story is over 5 years old.


An Interview with Sini Anderson, Director of 'The Punk Singer' - SXSW: Day Two

Yesterday I met up with Sini Anderson at SXSW, director of 'The Punk Singer,' a documentary about Kathleen Hanna. Out of everything I've seen about Kathleen, or of Kathleen, this was the most vulnerable.

Yesterday I met up with Sini Anderson, director of The Punk Singer, a documentary about Kathleen Hanna, in the lobby of The Driskill Hotel in Austin. Having a lengthy, quiet, heartfelt and important convo with anyone while at this shitshow is a fucking miracle and an even bigger rarity, but we did it, pulling it off with little to no hiccups, other than me still being deaf in my left ear from my GF sexy-smacking me and not understanding Sini say "we're kind of neighbors," until she repeated it five times. Oh, and I also feel the need to mention right up at the top here that both she and Kathleen Hanna were worried when they initially received an interview request from VICE, but that Kathleen recognized my name and was like, "Oh yeah, she's OK." This is a thing that I'm going to put on my resume and squeal about for the rest of my life.


VICE: I got the screener of The Punk Singer, and I loved it. The funny thing is, when you were filiming for parts of this at Kathleen's big tribute show at the Knitting Factory a year or so ago, I was there, front and center. You were having the audience do audience participation stuff. I did everything you asked, and I can't imagine doing that for anything else, other than Kathleen Hanna-related reasons. During the making of this documentary, were you ever surprised by how much people just fully sign on to anything having to do with Kathleen? 

Sini Anderson: I wasn't. I'm also like a total optimist, and I just know how Kathleen's work affects people. I think more so, I just had internal pressure. It's hard to sign on to a project about someone who you know means a lot to a lot of people. But from the outside, I knew that people really need her in a lot of ways, so I knew that immediate support would be there.

A lot of times when a documentary is made about an artist, they're dead. How did you manage making this about a person who's still very much alive and working, and was there a message that Kathleen specifically wanted to get across in the film? 

Kathleen had originally gotten in contact with me about directing the Le Tigre documentary, Who Took The Bomp, and you know, Kathleen's my friend, and when she comes to ask you to do something, you generally don't say no, but I said no because I was like, "I know this is gonna be about you guys touring, and that's another little sliver of you, and I think that you need to tell your story, and that you need to do it before you're dead.


We both have a really strong belief in celebrating art as it's being made, and encouraging people as they're doing the work, so they have the energy to keep doing it. But she didn't have anything she wanted to get across, she was scared. She was like, "I don't know what you're gonna do, but I trust you."

Out of everything I've seen about Kathleen, or of Kathleen, this was the most vulnerable. Especially the parts towards the end that show just how sick she had gotten.

I mean this is gonna sound dramatic, and it was really dramatic, but she felt like she was dying. And she got her diagnosis halfway through production. So when we started, we didn't know what was wrong with her, so it did make things feel urgent.

One of the things that I really appreciated about this film, and about Kathleen in general, is that she has a really great sense of humor. People don't, oddly and sadly, expect that from someone who calls themselves a feminist, so I was happy that a lot of her humor made it into the film. 

Kathleen is hilarious, and I was bummed that I had to leave so much out, but there's gonna be a DVD extras section just on humor. We got this great quote from Carrie Brownstein when we were interviewing her where she was like, "Kathleen Hanna is like the Tina Fey of punk rock."

The SXSW screenings of The Punk Singer have all come and gone, but check back HERE for anything coming up.