Sat. Dec 14th, 2019

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DVD Review – Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

2 min read

I didn’t realize it, but Pussy Riot isn’t actually a band. They aren’t musicians, who exist to create music that also carries a political message, but a feminist, political movement that uses art and music as the primary medium to express their politics. The documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, is a fascinating look at the story that captivated the world, triggered by the shocking arrest of 3 of the group’s main members after a performance at an Orthodox church in Moscow. The film follows the three women through the entire process of arraignment, trial, sentencing, and appeal.

Pussy Riot DVDThe performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ The Savior, which featured four members of the group wearing their trademark brightly colored balaclavas, dancing wildly, playing guitars and singing a deliberately crafted punk song, was followed by the arrest of three of the members (the fourth was never identified) and then put on trial for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and ultimate sentencing to 2 years in a penal colony. The groups primary message against totalitarianism, Putanism, and links between the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin was lost when they inadvertently struck a nerve that awakened memories of religious persecution in Russia’s past, mainly from the Bolshevik Revolution. They were vilified as “anti-religious” by the powerful Orthodox Church on the one hand, which was counterbalanced by a huge wave of support on the other.

The trials were a fascinating insight into the Russian legal system, and even the prosecuting lawyers admitted during interviews that the true message of the group wasn’t being heard. We learn more about the women themselves through interviews with their very supportive families, but most of all through their own words from the few times they are allowed to speak at their sentencing and appeals, as they walk a careful line between being apologetic and defiant. Though they stand on trial together, they each speak from a slightly different viewpoint and it’s not clear if anyone is even listening.