Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer (2013)

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Released 4-Apr-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 89:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mike Lerner
Maxim Pozdorovkin

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis


When, on 21 February 2012, five members of the Russian feminist art collective Pussy Riot staged a performance at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour they expected to ruffle a few feathers. After all, the purpose of the group was to highlight societal injustice and the moral and political failings of Vladimir Putin. What better way to draw attention than in a prominent house of worship?

What they didn't expect was to be arrested and charged with serious offences. The events that followed are an extraordinary story of a system determined to punish the girls to the full extent of the law.

The trial and imprisonment which followed captured the attention of the world, including the music industry with several heavy hitters, including Madonna and U2, coming out to criticise the handling of the prosecution of the band.

This documentary, filmed over a six-month period from the trial through the appeal process captures all the drama and insanity at the heart of this story. It also allows us to peek behind the veil of modern Russian society.

Pussy Riot has been described as a punk band however the description of them as art collective is probably more accurate. The girls are not (or don't appear to be) trained musicians and, in any event, their performances are usually too brief to be associated with the music. The punk attitude is really a way of creating maximum mayhem in order to bring as much attention as possible to the agenda of the group.

Although Pussy Riot contains a decent number of members there were only three who were identified (they all wear colourful balaclavas) and put on trial. These were Nadia, Masha and Katia. Each has their own perspective but they are united in their feminist beliefs and their hatred of the Putin government.

This was not the first time that Pussy Riot had staged a protest performance. Perhaps that is why they were so unprepared for the response to the Cathedral performance. On previous occasions they had turned up to public places and performed without much incident. What made this occasion different was the intensity of the religious fervour produced by the orthodox church, a church that had experienced enormous hardship and repression during its lifetime.

Perhaps what is most extraordinary about the documentary is the way in which the filmmakers are able to focus right in on the girls who are almost paraded before the media. As well as the girls we meet their family members, including fathers who are dedicated to the cause, those who wish their girls would just grow up and "get a real job" and those who are trying to draw world attention to their plight.

The ability to hear from the girls as they are going through the court process is quite remarkable. There is an interesting comment by one of the prosecutors who also, for unknown reasons, are quite happy to chat with the journalists. He expresses the view that the biggest problem facing the girls in defending their actions is that there are agenda was never made very clear. That is that is also a problem for viewers. Without a detailed knowledge of Russian politics it is a little hard to get to the bottom of why Putin inspires such hatred in the girls and the struggle for recognition is never clearly defined.

That is, however, a problem that is perhaps more associated with the nature of their protest. Making films criticising a regime or picketing offices may be a direct means of communicating an idea but doing a brief guerilla show with pretty indecipherable lyrics and no clear manifesto is probably asking for trouble.The difference is that in our country they would have got a fine and some stern words from a Magistrate - not two years in the clink!

This is a wholly entertaining documentary which will be enjoyed by anyone who has a handle on the modern world of popularity shifts and seismic movements through social media

One big note of disappointment. The documentary is rated R for "actual sexual activity". It features some very brief scenes of an art protest with the performers having sex in the biology section of a museum. It is useful to show the history of avant-garde art which guided Katia in her approach to political protest. However the scene was unnecessary as it has resulted in a rating which might put parents off from watching the film with their kids. The ideas about freedom of protest and the value of art in a repressive society are important and I wish that the director had managed to cut this scene as the rest of the film has very little adult content.

As a final note the film ends before Pussy Riot were freed from prison. The release itself was controversial with the girls saying that Putin only did it to make Russia look kind leading up to the Winter Olympics. Their protest at the Olympics scored them a beating but not an arrest. The Pussy Riot story does not yet have an ending...

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Transfer Quality


   Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer was shot on digital video and is presented at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It is 16×9 enhanced.

Given the type of fly on the wall documentary that it is it is no surprise that the film at times looks a little rough and ready. This is no criticism whatsoever. It has the ring of truth to it. The footage of the group's performances including the ill-fated performance at the church are predictably grainy and unclear.

So sequences shot as interviews are reasonably sharp. The colours are clear throughout. There are no technical defects with the image.

The documentary features English subtitles in the Russian language segments.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts



Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer features two soundtracks combining Russian and English in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 (448 Kb/s or 224 Kb/s).

Both are acceptable for a film that is really a combination of interviews and news style footage. Most of the film is in Russian with the burned in subtitles providing the translation. There are no technical defects with the sound.

Music is provided by Simon Russell together with some Pussy Riot music. The musical centrepiece is the song Free Pussy Riot by artists including Peaches , who knows her own way around controversy. It is a pretty good punk track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 1 release of this film mentions, on Amazon, that it contains :Exclusive interview with Katia; Sheffield Film Festival Q&A; Theatrical Trailer as extras. I can't comment on whether this makes the overseas version a better purchase prospect. I have rated it better simply on the inclusion of these materials.



Whether you agree with the protest ethos of Pussy Riot or whether you are disapproving of their methods the fact remains that the substantial jail term handed out to these troublemakers with a conscience was ridiculously heavy-handed, reflecting a desire to crush resistance thought. Right now Putin may have bigger problems on his plate than Pussy Riot but rest assured that they are never far away…

The DVD is fine in sound and vision terms.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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