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Movie Review: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

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Pussy Riot: A Punk PrayerYou’ve probably heard about Pussy Riot, but unless you’ve followed the story closely, you probably don’t know a lot about them. If every  international news story like this got as in-depth and intriguing a documentary as Mike Lerner and Maksim Pozdorovkin’s “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer,” the world would be a richer and more informed place.

The film, which debuted on the festival circuit earlier this year and recently premiered on HBO, concerns the Russian feminist punk rock collective of the same name. Known for “guerilla” performances in public places, clad in ski masks and kicking and punching while they sing, the group frequently bashes the regime of Vladimir Putin and church/state collusion. They sing songs with titles like “Kill the Sexist,” “Putin Lights up the Fires,” “Death to Prison, Freedom to Protests” and “Mother of God, Drive Putin Away.”

Pussy Riot made international headlines in 2012 when three of them were arrested after they crashed an Orthodox church and gave an impromptu performance. Two were later convicted of “hooliganism” and sentenced to two years of hard labor, setting off an international outcry. Madonna performed with “Free Pussy Riot” written on her back, while Yoko Ono at one point announced that she was informally advising Pussy Riot; this surprisingly wasn’t followed by the announcement of the group’s immediate breakup.

The film, which was produced and put together not a long time after the events in question, intercuts footage of the trial with interviews with the defendants as well as the lawyers on both sides of the case.

The documentary represents an intriguing look at a Russia in transition, and not quite for the better. The film also points out more than once that while the “pussy” part of the group’s title tends to be more controversial when the story is discussed in the West, in Russia it’s the “Riot” half that really scares the government and establishment.

If you’re interested in Pussy Riot and their story, do check out the documentary on HBO this month.

 

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