2013 Sundance Docs in Focus: PUSSY RIOT – A PUNK PRAYER

pussy riotThis year’s World Cinema Documentary Competition reaches the halfway point: From the Russian Federation/UK, Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s PUSSY RIOT – A PUNK PRAYER, a look at the controversial trial of the radical feminist activists.

Sundance Program Description:

In the winter of 2011, after a controversial election, Vladimir Putin was reinstalled as president of Russia. In response, hundreds of thousands of citizens rose up all over the country to challenge the legitimacy of Putin’s rule. Among them were a group of young, radical-feminist punk rockers, better known as Pussy Riot. Wearing colored balaclavas, tights, and summer dresses, they entered Moscow’s most venerated cathedral and dared to sing “Mother Mary, Banish Putin!” Now they have become victims of a “show” trial.

British filmmaker Mike Lerner and Russian Maxim Pozdorovkin collaborate to chronicle the way one small act of protest captured a nation’s attention and grew to become an international story of human-rights abuse. Putting a personal face on a rebellion, they track three bewildered women who are imprisoned by jail bars and cameras but prepared to defend their actions no matter what it may cost them. This film tells their epic story.

Some Background:
While this film marks his directorial debut, Mike Lerner is a Sundance alum twice over as a producer – most recently with the Oscar-nominated HELL AND BACK AGAIN (2011), and earlier as an executive producer for AFGHAN STAR (2009) – both of which picked up two awards in Park City. He also serves as an executive producer for fellow 2013 World Cinema Doc Competition title THE SQUARE (AL MIDAN). Pozdorovkin’s first film, CAPITAL, had a festival run that included Full Frame and DMZ Docs, among others. Serving as the doc’s executive producers are BBC commissioning editors Nick Fraser and Kate Townsend, BRITDOC’s Maxyne Franklin (who serves the same role on THE SQUARE), AFGHAN STAR’s Havana Marking, and Lerner’s production partner Martin Herring.

Why You Should Watch:
Lerner and Pozdorovkin provide fantastic access to the group as they stand trial, laying bare the injustices of the Russian courts. Just as important, the filmmakers leave the proceedings at times to delve into the backgrounds and mindsets of Katya, Masha, and Nadya through reflections of their families, supporters, and fellow Pussy Riot members – revealing what their actions were all about, and why their struggle deserves continued international attention.

More Info:
For more information, visit the doc’s Facebook page. For Pozdorovkin’s thoughts on the film, check out his Indiewire interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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