Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer opens in Toronto February 14th

Posted Feb 13, 2014 by Bryen Dunn
There are some things that spread through the internet like wildfire, and two years ago this month the world heard about Russia's punk band Pussy Riot, as news anchors could say their controversial name on mainstream media outlets without reprisal.
Members of  Pussy Riot.
Members of "Pussy Riot."
On February 21st, it will be two years since their infamous performance at Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Moscow, that left many in awe, and many more angered at their antics. It also resulted in three of the members being arrested, locked in jail, and a lengthy court process that only saw them released a few months ago. Their charges were basically hooliganism and disregard for religion.
As the girls state, they are not opposed to religion directly, only the fact that it is so closely linked to the state, and Putin's regime. In fact, the collective was officially formed on the day Putin was reinstated as President of the nation. As much as the traditional elder population were upset with their performance, a new younger generation were angered by the fact they received a jail term for this.
As members of the feminist art collective Pussy Riot, they performed a 40 second "punk prayer" inside Russia's main cathedral, St Christ the Saviour in Moscow. The state’s response was swift and brutal. The performance led to their arrest on charges of religious hatred and culminated in a trial and sentence of 2 years imprisonment. Their act of defiance also reverberated around the world and transformed the face of Russian society forever.
UPDATE (February 18, 2014) - The same two members have been detained in Sochi, along with other members of the public, and accredited journalists.
This was only their fifth performance, with the first being in a salon, and rapidly going more public with the fourth one in Red Square. All shows are unannounced in random unexpected locations. The girls come up with a theme, such as sexism, freedom of speech, and any other topic that helps free society from prejudices and stereotypes. Everything from non-marriage and child bearing, to anti-religion and gay rights are shouted out in their public performances.
Filmed over the course of six months, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, tells the incredible story of three young women: Nadia (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova), Masha (Maria Alyokhina) and Katia (Yekaterina Samutsevich). With unparalleled access and exclusive footage, this film looks at the real people behind their now famous colourful balaclavas.
Following the bizarre and intricate twists of the trial, filmmakers Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin filmed the three young women’s fight back against a justice system that seems impervious to logic. From their family and friends we learn what transformed these women from political activists to modern day icons. As Nadia, Masha, and Katia defend their convictions from a cage inside the courtroom, those Pussy Riot members still at liberty plan new guerilla performances and cultivate a protest movement across the globe.
Moving from farce to tragedy and back again, the film explores how political and religious forces contrived to make an example out of three young artists who stepped out of line. But with Nadia, Masha, and Katia, Russia's ruling powers got more than they bargained for. “I realized that underneath the layers of politics, religion, and history, the story of Pussy Riot is a classic one. It is the story of a younger generation making itself heard by any means necessary”, stated Producer and Director Maxim Pozdorovkin.
On December 23, having served 22 months of their 2 yr sentence, Nadia and Masha were freed from prison. They also spoke at the Feb 5 Amnesty International “Bringing Human Rights Home” concert in Brooklyn, and shortly after announced they were no longer part of Pussy Riot. An official announcement followed from the other members wishing them both luck in the future activism, and made it clear Pussy Riot still exists.
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer - Opens Friday, February 14, 2014 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West, in Toronto.
Produced and Directed by Mike Lerner & Maxim Pozdorovkin
Winner - Special Jury Prize, World Cinema - Documentary, Sundance Film Festival 2013
Winner - British Independent Film Award, Best Documentary, British Independent Film Awards 2013
Running time: 86 minutes