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The Mass Media

‘Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer’ comes to UMass Boston

Publicity+poster+for+the+Pussy+Riot+movie
Publicity poster for the ‘Pussy Riot’ movie

“Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” tells the wild story of a Russian feminist punk art collective that goes head to head with the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government led by a newly re-elected Vladimir Putin. Directed by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin, the 2013 documentary explores rebellion against social and political oppression and the consequences of vehement disruption of the status quo.
Clad in a rainbow of clothing, including their signature ski masks, and cloaked in intriguing anonymity, the women of “Pussy Riot” rock Russian society with their message of social and political freedom. By employing a disruptive yet nonviolent approach, the group aims to bring attention to sociopolitical issues including women’s rights, freedom of expression, and political oppression.
Their music is an aurally harsh, erratic amalgam of sounds and their performances irreverent and full of rebellious fervor. In true punk fashion, they crash public areas while loudly performing original songs and spreading their nonconformist, anti-establishment message.
For their fateful fifth performance, “Punk Prayer,” the group crashes Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior and performs in front of the alter. As a result, they are promptly arrested, escorted away, and imprisoned. The film tracks the chain of events that follow, including an intense and controversial trial and the subsequent firestorm concerning their imprisonment.
The three imprisoned members, Nadia Tolokonnikova, Masha Alyokhina, and Katia Samutsevich, quickly transition from being free social protesters to incarcerated symbols of rebellion. As a result of their attempt to dismantle long-standing patriarchal institutions, the women are thrust into the public spotlight and essentially become revolutionary martyrs. This is all happening while the rest of the collective and the women’s families are left reeling from the arrests. Their trials quickly garner worldwide attention.
“Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” investigates the conservatism entrenched in Russian society. It delves into the oppressive products of a deeply Orthodox Russia, where words such as “pussy” or “riot” are not to be uttered. The audience witnesses the depth of Russian social divisions, including an extreme generational gap, as well as the boiling tension between Russian conservatism and emergent social liberalism.
The film highlights the discord amongst the Russian people: While supporters believe Pussy Riot’s actions were progressive and commendable, detractors maintain that those actions were vulgar and blasphemous. ‘Pussy Riot’ also gives viewers insight into the close relationship between the Russian church and the state, and how this relationship inhibits social progress.
The film’s cinematic composition was nondescript. Structurally, the film was much like any other documentary film. Interview scenes were interwoven with raw, unsteady camera footage.
Despite the heavy subject matter, there are several light moments in the film. During one such moment a religious leader defines the word “pussy” as a “deranged vagina.” Here the ignorance that often sprouts from extremism becomes laughable. The film successfully meshes humor and a serious subject matter, producing an insightful picture of social rebellion.
“Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer” is a raw look at what occurs when an oppressive status quo reaches its tipping point. By providing audiences with exclusive access to the film’s chaotic journey, viewers are able to witness something not often seen: the inner workings of revolution.