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Review: ‘Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer’ One of the Most Important Documentaries of the Year

Review: 'Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer' One of the Most Important Documentaries of the Year

“Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” may well be the most important
doc of the year, despite the fact that its directors never quite get to the
point of what the alleged “crimes” were all about: Namely, Vladimir Putin’s
co-opting of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the church’s Stockholm Syndrome
approach to religious autonomy. That was why Pussy Riot — Nadezhda
Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, dressed in pastels
and ski masks — seized the stage, i.e. the altar, of Moscow’s historic Christ
the Saviour Cathedral Feb. 21, 2012, writhing, howling vulgarities and
generally outraging the pious security personnel, who asked themselves what
Jesus would do, and promptly assaulted the band.

Still, directors
Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin make spectacular use of Russian’s invasive
paparazzi-style media freedoms on behalf of their movie, and create of a girl
group that might not be the best band in the world, but is certainly the bravest.

What Tolokonnikova,
Alyokhina and Samutsevich did was an act of conceptual art and political
protest against Kirill I, the primate of Russia, who is comfortably in bed with
Putin, not that he likely has a lot of choice. Nevertheless, it’s a disgraceful
situation, considering how the ROC managed to survive 70 years of atheistic
Communism, only to bend over for the same midget bureaucrat who is largely
responsible, at the moment, for the fact that Syrians are slaughtering each
other.

However: “Pussy
Riot” the movie is less interested in the history than the moment. It’s a
kinetic, music-driven portrait, showing its subjects defiant in the face of the
charges against them, and the farcical trial they’re made to sit through.
There’s a lot of appropriately anarchic editing, music-video flourishes and
footage of the women’s preparations for their Christ the Saviour “concert.”
There are interviews with the women, done after their arrests for “hooliganism”
and having violating the “right to worship” of those who were inside the
cathedral. Rightly, “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” portrays the performance as an
act of intellectual pranksterism, but is clear about the meaning of the
official response: That it implies a profound insecurity on the part of the
Putin regime. The loathing exhibited by anti-Pussy protestors on the Moscow
streets  (“Orthodoxy or Death” one
T-shirt reads) is troubling, but not a surprise: A key to Putin’s success has
been his appeal to the nationalistic instincts of everyday Russians. The members
of Pussy Riot are not everyday Russians.

They are, in fact,
prisoners — Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, anyway (Samutsevich’s sentence was
commuted). It’s certainly ironic: What would have been an amusing but
ultimately forgettable gesture of protest has been blown up by Putin into an
international scandal that serves — as directors Lerner and Pozdorovkin so
deftly demonstrate in their energetic doc – as a symbol of political oppression
and creeping government instrusion worldwide. On Wednesday night, a couple of
Pussy Riot members who escaped Putin-style “justice” appeared Wednesday at a
Lower East Side bookstore, to keep the movement going. We wanted to call for
comment, but since we have Verizon, we weren’t sure who might be listening.

“Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” debuts on HBO on June 10. See the entire Summer Documentary Series lineup here.

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Comments

Amanda

No one would be listening. It's comments like this that do a disservice to the real element of injustice. Verizon gave away time codes and mathematical summations. Not anyone's conversation anytime the NSA said so. It's still deplorable, but not what you say it is.

I can't wait for this doc, but hope it's more factual than this review. Misinformation helps no one.

Ryan

Russia is not "atheistic" it is egalitarian, ignorance like that makes people see atheists as Angry communists

Fun

Can't wait for their reality tv show

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