'Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer': The '40-second prayer' heard around the world

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Just the name of the feminist collective Pussy Riot triggers reaction, which is its purpose.

HBO's documentary "Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer," airing Monday (June 10), tries to explain how a 40-second protest inside a church resulted in three of them being thrown in prison (with two still there), and sparked worldwide debate.

"It is the story of a foiled feminist revolution and that is one of the things that has been lost," Maxim Pozdorovkin, one of the filmmakers, tells Zap2it.

"The story has been misrepresented in the West and in Russia," he says. "In Russia it is presented as vulgar hooligans, motivated by religious hatred. And in the West, it is seen as an innocent punk band, just for singing an anti-Putin song. And the reality is so much more epic and generally thought-provoking, and forces us to ask of any society: What is and isn't allowed? What is your right as artists? And where are the lines to be drawn?"

The film shows how five women, wearing hand-knit balaclavas, jumped on a part of the altar at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior and chanted lyrics intended to be offensive.

The women had held similar performances deriding Russian President Vladimir Putin and burning his photo. In the church, they stood where only men are allowed and showed bare shoulders, also prohibited. They were charged with hooliganism.

It's a confusing and lengthy time to get to this point. Some of that is because the film is in Russian with English subtitles.

What is clear is how committed to freedom of speech and gender equality the women are and how brave they are to stand up in a court and announce that imprisonment has not changed how they feel.

"There are questions this story provokes because these women are much more radical than most people realize," Pozdorovkin says.

He hopes that after watching, people reflect on "the freedom of expression in your own society, to reflect about the role of religious fundamentalism."
Photo/Video credit: HBO