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Pussy Riot is a Russian punk-rock collective known for guerilla performances in odd locations. They sing songs about the rights of women, gays and lesbians and speak loudly about the relationship between Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, and his relationship to the Russian Orthodox Church. After editing these performances into music videos posted to the net, they quickly gained notoriety around the world.

In February of 2012 the group did a performance at the altar of Russia’s largest Orthodox Church. Three members (Nadia, Katia and Masha) were arrested and charged with hooliganism. Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer follows the arrest and trial of these three women and the backlash against Russia both inside and outside the country.

Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer is a bit rough, but that only adds to its message. It does an excellent job of laying bare the deficits in Russia’s treatment of its people, demonstrating that if this is what passes for Russian justice they have a very long way to go.

With no narration, the thesis seems to be to let these three young women’s politics be the centre point of the film. Directors Maxim Pozdorovkin and Mike Lerner had a ton of access to the circumstances of the arrest, trial and to the remaining members of the band.

Are there worse human rights violations in Russia right now? Likely, but there are few better examples of sluffing off the rights of people than to imprison three fresh-faced feminists who just want to be heard and make change.

Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer explodes onto the screen with the same energy as the band itself: in your face, feminist and DIY.

Is Pussy Riot essential Hot Docs viewing?

Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer defines essential viewing for this year’s Hot Docs. This is the most important film at the festival, in this reviewer’s opinion. Stand outside in the rain, sell your shoes for rush tickets. Get to this film any way you can.

Pussy Riot  screening times

  • Friday, April 26 2:00 pm at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
  • Sunday, April 28 4:30 pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre
  • Saturday, May 4 7:00 pm at Scotiabank 3

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