Act and Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Act and Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Act and Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials

Cleopatra Entertainment, MVD Video

These girls aren’t very good musicians, but boy, can they stick a fork in Vladimir Putin’s ear. In this captivating documentary film, we follow the story of Russia’s all-girl punk rock band “Pussy Riot” as they grow from disaffected youth to a major political action committee. They stood up to the Russian government’s human rights oppression and paid the price by being incarcerated for two years in 2012. But rather than silencing their voices, the incident only amplified them, turning the band into a global symbol of feminist political activism. They play in Sochi in a widely-seen concert at the 2014 Winter Olympics; here band members were attacked by a group of Cossacks hired as security guards.

Russia is a land that always seems on the edge of a revolt. It’s a common theme in art, music and politics, and while few revolutions succeeded, they are as much a part of the Russian subconscious as God and politics. Pussy Riot wasn’t much as much a band as a revolutionary art collective. They started in 2011 with a constantly shifting band of supporters, many who wished to try on revolt perhaps as a fashion statement. But they made waves and are best identified by the colorful balaclavas they cover their faces with, and over the years they’ve pulled off way more revisionary art events than even they thought possible. The leader of this troop is the young, attractive, well-spoken lead singer Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Small in stature, she’s stood up to the KGB and all those other evil acronyms that keep the ideological peace in Russia. The story climaxes with the aborted attempt to play a concert at Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The band made noise for less than a minute, but via the miracle of cell phone video made that show immortal. It also gave Tolokonnikova and co-musicians Mariya Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich two years in the slammer.

Along with the bands story, we get a good look at modern Russian life and politics. Naturally, when Putin runs for office, he wins, it’s not like there’s much “Loyal Opposition” in the Motherland. Moscow and surrounds appears clean and modern, the Russian people seem civilized, and interviews with artist and musicians and general fans shows that no matter how bad Russia gets, there’s always someone willing to protest. We also hear an interesting parallel with the history of Russian Orthodoxy: Pussy Riot may be viewed as a modern example of “Holy Fools” who criticize the leaders by making themselves examples and getting away with so much. I also find it interesting the band’s name is always spelled and pronounced in English. Pussy Riot is political theater at its best, and a constant thorn in the side of the authorities. Yet the police seem content to stand and watch and only interfere when they absolutely must. I can’t help but believe that they’re not opposed, but just doing enough to seem plausible in their jobs. I doubt anything will ever really change, but it’s great that people are standing up and screaming “No, this is wrong. Do something else!”

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