Pussy RiotDirectors: Mike Lerner & Maxim Pozdorovkin

Featuring: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich

Running Time: 90 minutes

Certificate: 18

In 2012 the three members of the feminist punk rock protest group, Pussy Riot, Nadia, Masha and Katerina, became the target of one of the most controversial trials of modern times, after protesting the re-election of Vladimir Putin as President of Russia. Their chosen method was donning colourful balaclavas and performing the song ‘Mother of God, Drive Putin Away’, inside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. This riveting documentary, which was originally made by Roast Beef Productions but subsequently bought by HBO, tells their story.

The subject matter alone is fascinating and highly relevant to the lack of humanism that is still a major issue worldwide. PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER expertly highlights the deeply concerning and terrifying way expressionism is treated even today; it really is scarily reminiscent of the Salem witch trials at times. Although it tells a very specific story about the lives of these three women and the Russia each grew up in, it also shines a light on the entire human race. One of the many possible conclusions to be drawn is how, en masse, we still continue to embrace the reptilian brain instead of the neomammalian brain, opting for ritual, dominance and aggression over rationale, innovation and evolution.

There is no narrator and we aren’t privy to interviews with the defendants, hearing them talk only in archive footage or during the trial itself. Instead, a more subtle method is used, where Lerner and Pozdorovkin talk to a member of each of the defendant’s family to show their history as people rather than “criminals”, which contrasts effectively with the tyrannical actions of the government and their prosecutors. The film hones in on two pivotal questions: what did they actually do wrong? Why are they and their families being punished for something so comparatively insignificant to actual criminals?

If there is anything lacking from this otherwise thoroughly engaging film, it is a slight brazenness when it comes to purpose. There never really seems to be a point to it other than to show the events that happened. This could be deemed the sign of a successful conventional documentary that tells a story objectively, but from the outset it is clear the filmmakers are on the side of Pussy Riot, so why confuse with this pretend impartiality? Furthermore, the fact that the three women in question are never interviewed does leave you slightly adrift from them and their side of the story. The story is told well without them, but it would have been interesting to hear from Pussy Riot themselves.

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER is still a very important film that should be seen by as many people as possible. It doesn’t refrain from the gory details and facts of the case, and reveals the cruel reality many people live in.

Four Out Of Five StarsPUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER is released on DVD in the UK 25th November.