PUSSY RIOT – A PUNK PRAYER: A REVIEW

PUSSY RIOT – A PUNK PRAYER is part of the Sydney Film Festival and has completed its screenings but have no fear – it will be getting an Australian release to art house cinemas. Enjoy the review below by Salty Kernel, ANDREW BRUSENTSEV.

It was news that went around the World. 40 seconds that seemed to capture the media’s attention, to expose with greater eloquence, the underlying issues in modern day Russia. It has ignited indignation by people on both sides of the political spectrum, anyone interested in freedom of expression and free speech and anti-statist ideologies.

Everyone knows the outlines of the story, it even made the mainstream media: In 2012 a subversive feminist quasi anarchist group called Pussy Riot went into the Church of Christ The Saviour in Moscow and for less than a minute played a song and performed their conceptual art come punk rock protest to the gathered worshippers. For this “dangerous crime” the girls were charged with inciting religious hatred and received a trip to the penal colonies. Two still remain there.

 

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER - Review for the SFF
PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER – Review for the SFF

 

Directors Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin use a great combination of interview and also work in with the throngs of paparazzi to give us a blend of interview documentary / paparazzi perspective to the proceedings. Most of the films footage is a mix of news reports, trial footage and Pussy Riots own videos.  The filmmakers also broaden their net interviewing many Orthodox groups, the most chilling a right wing Orthodox biker group sporting tshirts with the catchy slogan “Orthodoxy or Death”. An unnerving scene show the group on the way to a protest where the conversation in the car talks of the women as demons and then gets all misty eyed about the good ole days when women like this could have been burnt at the stake. Very “What Would Jesus Do”.

 

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER - Review for the SFF
PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER – Review for the SFF

 

As a proud Australian of Russian ancestry I need to insert my own commentary here. Many in my family are deeply religious members of the Russian Orthodox Church. I respect their religious belief but I have grown up differently. I can understand the furor. It has a very thorny and painful history. The Bolshevik,s in what can only be viewed as a crime against the Russian people, brutally not only put down religious worship but also blew up this beautiful church to build of all things a swimming pool. I understand the perspective and the issues it raises. But I also believe that Russia is a secular society with separation of Church and State.

 

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER - Review for the SFF
PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER – Review for the SFF

 

The protest was nothing more than a piece of conceptual art, in a more liberal society they would have been arrested for a misdemeanour (violating private property rights or some other lesser charges), they chose a venue where the worshippers have every right to worship how they see fit. But this act of conceptual art and political rubbed the raw nerve of the cosy relationship between Kiril I, the primate of Russia and Putin. The old KGB style tactics come out much the same with anyone questioning modern Russia’s civil liberties, some fall off balconies, others disappear, others go to the penal colonies on false or over exaggerated charges. Nevertheless, it’s a disgraceful situation, considering how the Orthodoxy managed to survive 70 years of atheistic Communism only to be now bent over a barrel by an ex-KGB strongman. That it is viewed as nothing more than civil disobedience and a violation of property rights shows just how insecure the regime really is.

There are encouraging signs; the shift of opinion between young Russians and old serve as a stark contrast in this production. The young are either outright supporters or support the right to free speech, a quick look on the internet shows many religious Russians who although deeply religious also view this as nothing more than a fineable offense.

I should leave the last words to Peaches herself a feminist firebrand who uses music for shock value.

Cue her “Free Pussy Riot” – indeed

An important documentary.

 

5 Pops