MADISON TAYLOR

A thought-provoking documentary that highlights women in modern Russian society, Pussy Riot: A Punk Rock Prayer follows the story of the feminist protest group Pussy Riot from their humble beginnings to their internationally televised court trial.

Directors Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin have created a film that is both enlightening and inspiring to watch for feminists and non-feminists alike, inviting discussion on issues of gender roles and political rights under the rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Playing at the Broadway Theatre from March 2–13, the documentary allows viewers to become acquainted with Nadia Tolokonnikova, Masha Alyokhina and Katia Samutsevich, three members of Pussy Riot. Using punk rock and performance art as a form of rebellion, these young women have been shaking the core of Russia’s patriarchal roots since August 2011.

The group is notorious for hosting spontaneous guerilla concerts in controversial locations such as the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Red Square in Moscow — all while sporting neon balaclavas and colorful summer dresses.

The women chose vibrantly colored balaclavas instead of traditional black to show they are not bad people but simply “jesters or jokers” looking to shake up popular opinion in a non-violent manner.

Pussy Riot proves that the pen is mightier than the sword by using lyrics to advocate issues ranging from feminism, LGBTQ rights and general hatred of Vladimir Putin — they even composed a piece titled “Putin has Pissed Himself.”

Though they choose to wage their war with microphones and guitars rather than guns and fists, Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich of Pussy Riot were arrested on charges of “hooliganism” in 2012. The documentary exposes the inner workings of their trial, giving unbiased screen time to both Pussy Riot supporters and critics.

The interviews and media footage included in the film succeed in showing the viewpoint of almost every group imaginable, from their rowdiest advocates to those who would like nothing more than to drive them out of Moscow with torches and pitchforks.

One of the most memorable contributions comes from a church member proudly modelling a t-shirt with the slogan ‘ORTHODOXY OR DEATH,’ insisting that the group’s name best translates to “deranged vaginas.”

The camera captures the musings of many more of these offended church-goers, a large portion of whom compare the demonstrations to that of the Russian Bolsheviks in the 20s and 30s.

The Pussy Riot trial has sparked a flame that has spread over the globe, inspiring further protests from European and North American citizens alike — the most notable being Madonna and Yoko Ono.

Despite international dispute, Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova served two-year sentences in a penal colony outside of Moscow. They were granted amnesty and released in December 2013, in what is popularly viewed as Russia’s attempt to ward off condemnation of the country’s approach to human rights in light of the Sochi Olympics.

In honour of their own newly acquired freedom, the members of Pussy Riot have created a human rights movement advocating for the release of innocent women from Russian prisons.

Pussy Riot is a triumphant success story following the journey of three young women towards empowerment. It proves that despite political, social and gender barriers, every voice deserves to be heard. The documentary’s appeal extends beyond aspiring activists and film fanatics, proving itself to be a provocative and badass work of art.

Catch Pussy Riot: A Punk Rock Prayer at the Broadway Theatre March 7, 12 and 13. Tickets are $7 at the door. For further information visit broadwaytheatre.ca