Pussy Riot—A Punk Prayer
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Pussy Riot—A Punk Prayer

Pussy Riot—A Punk Prayer doesn't quite live up to its rebellious name.

Pussy Riot A Punk Prayer 5

DIRECTED BY MAXIM POZDOROVKIN AND MIKE LERNER (UK, Special Presentations)
3stars


SCREENINGS:

Friday, April 26, 2 p.m.
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)

Sunday, April 28, 4:30 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

Saturday, May 4, 7 p.m.
Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond Street West)


As the title of this documentary makes clear, Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin picked—or chanced upon—one of the trendiest possible topics for a debut film. After a performance/demonstration on the soleas of the St. Christ Church in Moscow in 2012, three members of the titlular punk feminist movement/collective were arrested and sent to jail. Lerner and Pozdorovkin were embedded, as it were, with group members prior to their arrests, giving the filmmakers unrivaled access to Pussy Riot’s planning and rehearsals. That footage only accounts for a small portion of the documentary. The rest rehashes the basics of the trial while painting biographical portraits of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Ekaterina Samutsevich, and Mariya Alyokhina.

While the biographical sketches present nothing more than could be gleaned from a quick Google search, where the film stands out is in its handheld camera work at Pussy Riot performances, which captures the urgency and grassroots nature of the group’s work. The documentary is conventional in form, but it does manage to capture some telling moments. Pozdorovkin and Lerner’s camera records the group’s casual banter in the prisoners’ box, as the women muse about what headlines will be written about them. At one point, Tolokonnikova turns to Alyokhina and says: “I don’t want to be a background image.” It’s a crucial sentiment, and it’s a good summary of the film’s aim. But Pussy Riot doesn’t quite live up to that goal.


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