3 Films

The Punk Singer documents Kathleen Hanna, the front-singer of the Seattle-based punk-bands Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, who achieved international stardom.  She was central to the Riot Grrrl movement and remains an inspiration to women who wish to break out of male-imposed and female-accepted stereotypes of gender.  The film touches on her earliest artistic efforts at spoken word, her breaking into rock and roll and features testimonials from women who support the movement.  She features artists and musicians on her blog http://www.kathleenhanna.com/category/blog/. 

Persepolis is an autobiographical animation that traces Marjane Satrapiís experiences encountering cultural boundaries growing up in Iran, studying in Europe and navigating the constraints of the Iranian revolution.  As a child she first encountered the gender barriers and was encouraged to deal with them in different ways by her family.  Her grandmother was a particularly strong mentor in her defiance to male impositions on their behavior.  The film traces her trajectory through the Iranian revolution against the Shah, the domination of Iranians by the triumphant revolutionaries, the personal relationships that developed while studying in France and the destructive Iran-Iraq war that destroyed much of Tehran, her home city. 

Paris Is Burning is a documentary set in New York City that traces the 1980ís phenomenon of gay balls, runway competitions with fans and awards.  Denied access to mainstream institutions, a gay subculture spontaneously arose, originally as fashion-shows but expanding into innovative dancing and other performance arts.  Families were re-invented as some assumed the role of mothers, protecting and encouraging their children in their artistic and political progress.  They're work frankly illustrates the incredible adaptability and creativity of the human being. 

Despite my claim to a fundamental liberality, I held back watching these 3 films, thinking that I already knew all I needed to know.  But enabled me to break out of my hardened relationship to ideas of gender and to see a new world.  Check it out, guys.  You have nothing to fear. 

By the way, Examiner is ending its program of providing an online venue for reviewers.  After 7 years, I am signing off.  Iím looking for other opportunities to bring you the latest news from the cultural frontier.  You havenít heard the last from me.