Pussy Riot on Trial

"People, let me remind you, this isn't a theater," says a Russian judge as she imposes a sentence of two years behind bars on the now internationally famous feminist punk group Pussy Riot. The scene appears near the end of Maxim Pozdorov­kin and Mike Lerner's 90-minute documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. It's ironic, since what got the women in court was less a crime than an act of theater.

Pussy Riot is a guerrilla performance art group whose members were arrested in 2012 for holding an impromptu protest in the country's main house of worship. Their target: Vladimir Putin's authoritarian regime and its union with the Orthodox church. The documentary combines courtroom footage, scenes from street protests, and interviews with Pussy Riot's family members to provide a comprehensive and sympathetic account of the band's persecution. The picture that emerges is of a show trial.

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