The Good, the Bad, and the Critic

Review: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

Pussy Riot is an all-female Russian punk band and performance collective which attempts to shake-up the established order and transform our views about politics, power, and religion. Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s documentary tracks the group’s remarkable journey from formation to the end of their life-altering trial.

In February 2012, Pussy Riot decided to put on an impromptu performance inside the Russian Orthodox Christ the Savior Cathedral. Five women clad in boots, dresses, tights, and brightly-coloured balaclavas jumped to the church’s altar microphone in hand and began shouting a “punk prayer” which denounced Putin as president of Russia. Security rushed to the scene and dragged the girls away. The stunt and arrest went viral and gained the girls international attention.

With lyrics like “Kill all conformists / Kill all Putinists,” there is no wonder why Pussy Riot could create such a stir among the religious Russian community. To many they are seen as devils, wild girls who create havoc and destroy the foundational values upon which Russian society is built. From the perspective of the filmmakers, however, they are portrayed as brilliant rebels who challenge the status quo and do their best to uproot it.

The directors rely on well-edited courtroom footage and in-depth interviews with both defendants and their families. We also see news footage and clips of the former Soviet Union’s repression and of Pussy Riot’s practices and performances. Each masked-member of Pussy Riot is humanized, faced with the problems of average citizens: they do not have regret for their actions, but they do have fear regarding how they will be treated and how they will ever get out of prison. You can’t help but sympathize and feel anger for those who keep them locked up in an attempt to silence their voices.

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer is one of those rare activist documentaries that actually inspires its viewers to become activists themselves.


Check out more of Michael’s reviews at, and catch a screening of Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer at Cinematheque (100 Arthur Street) on Mar. 13-15 at 7 p.m., Sunday, Mar. 16 at 2 p.m., and once more on Wednesday, Mar. 19 at 7 p.m.