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Case Number 27148: Small Claims Court

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Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

Cinedigm // 2013 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // March 27th, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Daryl Loomis thinks cats shouldn't be allowed to demonstrate.

The Charge

Open the doors, off with the shoulder-straps, join us in a taste of freedom.

The Case

On February 21, 2012, a punk/art collective of women known as Pussy Riot entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow and danced at the altar while singing a song critical of Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. Two weeks later, authorities arrested three of these women on charges of hooliganism: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich. Quickly convicted, they were each sentenced to three years in prison.

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer serves as a breakdown of the problems surrounding this issue specifically, but also as a primer for the general issues of Russian oppression and their circus of a judicial system. This isn't my first go around with documentaries about the weird Russian system, with 2011's Khodorkovsky dealing with its namesake oil tycoon arrested and humiliated by Putin for his business practices, ostensibly, but really it was because he used his billions to fund the opposition to Putin. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was an actual criminal, evading taxation on his billions and conducting shady business, at best. What did these three women do? Nothing more than jump up and down in a church.

Now, was it in poor taste to the religious folk in the church? Of course it was, but their crime was tantamount to trespassing and, yet, they received identical treatment in the court, with all the press and the berating and the cages. After their sentence, reports of their treatment were terrible, while world organizations and individual spoke out against it all. It didn't matter, of course, as for two of the three, their sentences were upheld on appeal and they were separated, placed in different, harsher prisons and were left to rot. Hunger strikes, one lost prisoner, and a bunch of protests occurred with no change. That is, until an event occurred in Sochi, Russia called the Olympics that you might have heard of. In the weeks before the world was watching, a number of political prisoners were released, Pussy Riot included.

Of course it is, because it's all political theater designed for propaganda and oppression. Now, their release is not represented in the film, as that happened almost a year after the movie was released, but that's the business. In the film's funniest moment, we find Vladimir Putin sitting with a British interviewer describing the reason for their ridiculous imprisonment. His response, in fewer words, is essentially that they had to imprison Pussy Riot so they could protect the rights of the religious. Restrict speech to foster speech. Oh, yes, the double-speak is delicious.

Directors Mike Lerner (Afghan Star) and Maxim Pozdorovkin (Captial) have made a competent, informative documentary that is, unfortunately, fairly insubstantial. It's more of a collection of footage than it is an insightful commentary on the issue, but that's fine. It gets the point across perfectly well and, having everything together is
valuable, but not as substantial as I would have wanted.

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer comes to DVD from Cinedigm on a very standard disc. The 1.78:1 anamorphic image is decent enough for what it is; it looks decent for cheap video work and serves its purpose. The stereo sound is pretty much the same, with perfectly discernable dialog and clear music. The only extra is a forum interview with Samutsevich, whose successful appeal allowed her to hit the world media circuit, and it's a nice addendum to the film.

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer tells a very interesting story, but there's little here that's more insightful than what has already been extensively reported in the media. If you're unfamiliar with the issues at hand and need a quick primer, this will suffice, but it likely won't tell you enough about either Pussy Riot or the situation of Russian justice. Even though the film is decent, it's completely inessential.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 83

Perp Profile

Studio: Cinedigm
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Russian)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Concerts and Musicals
• Documentary
• Foreign

Distinguishing Marks

• Interview

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Facebook Page








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