Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hot Docs Review: Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer


On February 21, 2012 the members of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, wearing their trademark neon coloured balaclavas, staged a guerrilla style satirical performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The band’s intent was to comment on the unhealthy union between church and state that Vladimir Putin’s regime ushered in. Little did they know that their thirty second performance would land them in jail and ignite debates across the world.

In Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer, directors Maxim Pozdorovkin and Mike Lerner document how the Pussy Riot trial dissolved into a “show trial” in which the punishment did not fit the crime. It is clear that the fate of Pussy Riot was sealed the minute they set foot in the Orthodox Church. Even their parents, who are usually supportive of their daughters and their political activism, admit that the group crossed the line. While there were other avenues the band could have taken to get their message across, what is truly interesting about the cathedral incident is the response it caused.

The overall response from Orthodox faithful and the conservative community as a whole was just as shocking as the act itself. Several of the church supporters in Pozdorovkin and Lerner’s film are viewed as fanatical. They talk about the pain the band caused by violating their religious rights one moment, and the next they are proclaiming that the members of Pussy Riot should be killed. Listening to these individuals it becomes clear that the incident is not just a religious issue, but a social commentary on women’s role in society. This is evident in the controversy that the band’s name causes. One man talks of how the word “pussy” is satanic and represents “deranged vaginas.” In his eyes women should be raising families and not indulging in political activism.

The battle between old world values and modern day expression is still a hotly debated topic in Moscow. Nadya, one of the Pussy Riot members arrested, points out that nothing has changed since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The type of performance art that Pussy Riot engages in is rather foreign in their region. In fact the only university in the area that teaches art does not even acknowledge performance art as a legitimate art form.

This is not to say that the film absolves the band for their role in all of this. However, Pozdorovkin and Lerner provide context on how three young girls grew up to be prominent voices in the feminist scene. Pussy Riot was formed in the hopes of being more than a band, they wanted it to become a movement. The film shows how the Pussy Riot’s message has spread across the globe with the likes of artists such as Peaches and Madonna in their ranks of supporters.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the actions of Pussy Riot, there is plenty to enjoy and take away from this film. Filled with intelligence, humour, hope and a whole lot of vigor, the film will have audiences wanting to rise up in action. Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer is one of the year’s best films!

Screenings

Sunday, April 28 4:30 PM
Isabel Bader Theatre

Saturday, May 4 7:00 PM
Scotiabank 3

1 comment:

  1. FREE PUSSY RIOT!!!!!! I hope more people see this. I want to organize a prison riot to get them out.

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