Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

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Last year Russia made headlines once again for their repressive tactics. Pussy Riot, a band made up of an evolving door of ski mask clad women, stormed the altar of the most sacred spot in Russia and created a spectacle. Their ensuing capture and trial was a public relations nightmare for the country in the world’s eyes. But why did these women do this? And why was it such a huge deal? This documentary decides to answer these two very complicated questions and mostly succeeds.

What I found most compelling about this film wasn’t the interviews with the very supportive parents or the chunks of history, but the rhetoric Pussy Riot created for themselves. Each woman was articulate and intellectual. They had a reason behind everything they did. They wore brightly colored ski masks because they wanted to be anonymous but they also didn’t want to appear like criminals. They decided to place their protest in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour as a comment on how religion is just a pawn in Putin’s dictatorial hold on Russia. And what they were saying in their complete song wasn’t supposed to be offensive to the regular church goer, but supposed to be a message to Putin himself. The women stood up for themselves, challenged the court and cared about what they were doing the whole time. To juxtapose these earnest women with the Orthodox Church’s reaction to the situation is a study in contrasts. The filmmakers follow around a group of men called the Keepers of the Cross. These men are sport traditional Russian beards, have skulls on their shirts and wear leather vests. They were appalled by these women and commented that they have demons inside them. At one point one man commented that in the sixteenth century they would just burn them at the stake for being witches. Attacking a couple of women with such vile words  who were on your altar for a mere sixty seconds seems like overkill to me.

Outside of the speeches they made, the interviews with the parents and the footage of Pussy Riot performing, I still felt like I didn’t get a completely detailed picture of these three women. There were facts of the case that were murky and glossed over. But all of these things can be easily forgiven for the chance to see these women’s story come to life.

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One thought on “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

  1. Nice review. I saw this recently and was similarly impressed. I knew a little about the case but I liked the depth that the film went into around the legal side of things. Particularly that their protest was not designed to be anti-religion as such but anti the cosy relationship of church and state.

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