CATEGORIES Movies
Every day, Moviefone Canada will bring you a must-see documentary from the Hot Docs 2013 film festival. Read more reviews here.

Pussy Riot: One of the most effective punk-protest movements to ever come out of Russia. Lousy band.

If you are like me, you probably spent some time yakking about Pussy Riot over the last year. Whether a savvy hipster dialed into the endless social media conversation surrounding the act, or a headline reader who has time for a bit of international news, it was next to impossible to ignore the quantity of info and quality of results that these women produced with their technicolour punk rock antics. Their journey to date is told with an incredible wealth of footage in this much-anticipated documentary.

Brandishing brightly coloured dresses, tights, balaclavas and even the occasional instrument, Pussy Riot formed in 2011. They mixed a laundry list of protest subjects into their lyrics, used performance art as their vehicle, and held a neo-feminist umbrella over the whole shebang. The members came of age in the mid-2000s allowing for an embarrassment of riches when it comes to video footage of the group in action.

The band's earliest "performances" took place at a few choice locations in Moscow. Sparsely attended, somewhat incoherent, and pretty noisy, Pussy Riot and their collective of politicized rockers looked like something out of the punk-zine scene of the 1980s more than any modern day protest movement. Political performance art is relatively new to Russia, and so just about any act of cultural criticism still gets people talking. The 'Big Shew' happened on Feb. 21, 2012 when Pussy Riot got this funny little idea to bring the noise into Moscow's Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The Riot got their song together, practiced some dance moves and figured out how to set up their rig with some expedience. The group infiltrated the majestic location and managed to bark out a few disjointed lyrics, but was shut down with the speed in which they had set up.

The Church, the state, President Vladimir Putin, and tens of thousands of Christian Russians were not amused, but that was exactly the point. This protest was meant to shed some light on the cozy Church/State relationship in Russia, the role women have been asked to play in Orthodox Christianity throughout the ages and a slew of other topics. They got plenty of positive attention, but not without a storm of pushback.

"Pussy Riot -- A Punk Prayer", directed by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin, is really a look at the trial that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were subject to following their arrests for putting on the stunt. The doc uses much of its real estate to give background on all three women, stitching together a patchwork quilt of Russia's cultural and political history. Needless to say, the collective's members feel that the motherland is not headed in the right direction.

The film recaps the media circus around these young women, the plights of their families and really does a fantastic job giving access to the powerful speeches and moments in their hooliganism trial. Like all serious protest movements, the women in Pussy Riot risked much to put their ideas on the table, including their relationships with spouses and children and some serious jail time.

"Pussy Riot -- A Punk Prayer" is one of this year's highlights at Hot Docs. Don't miss it.

SCREENINGS:

Fri, April 26, 2 p.m. Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Sun, April 28, 4:30 p.m. Isabel Bader Theatre

Sat, May 4, 7 p.m. Scotiabank 3