Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Sundance Film Festival
Tribune Staff
The staff of The Salt Lake Tribune covers the Sundance Film Festival, on the streets of Utah and beyond.

» E-mail

» Subscribe (RSS)




Ripped from headlines, 'Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer' debuts at Sundance

Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin come from different trajectories.

Lerner is an Academy Award-nominated producer who has been a documentary filmmaker for 25 years. His previous work includes "Afghan Star," which won the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. His "Hell and Back Again" won the documentary Jury Prize at the 2011 Festival.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Pozdorovkin is a Russian native and is making his Sundance Film Festival directing debut.

But the duo co-directed and co-produced "Pussy Riot—A Punk Prayer," a film screening in the World Cinema Documentary competition in the Sundance Film Festival.

The story is ripped from the headlines in a tale that captured the attention of all of Russia and to a lesser extent the rest of the world.

On February 21, 2012, the punk group staged a performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior and sang "Mother Mary, Banish Putin!" before they were stopped by church security officials. The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church’s support for Vladimir Putin.

Three members of Pussy Riot were convicted of hooliganism, and each was sentenced to two years imprisonment.

The two filmmakers, like many around the world, were shocked by the severe sentences.

"I had heard about Pussy Riot before the Cathedral performance and was awe-struck by the bravado of their previous performances," said Pozdorovkin. "When I heard that they performed in the country’s main cathedral, considered to be a holy site by believers, I knew that a major reaction would be forthcoming. That being said, I could not foresee that their ‘Punk Prayer’ would ... lead to a jail sentence for the group’s members."

"I first heard about the Pussy Riot action ... and I thought, ‘Wow, who the hell are these people and what do they want?’ Lerner said. "Then I learned of the Cathedral action and their subsequent arrest and I knew that this was going to be one of the most powerful and important stories of the decade."

Pozdorovkin was attracted to the story because he felt a personal connection to the young women in Pussy Riot. "One of the first things that drew me to the story of Pussy Riot was the sense of a shared past with the characters," he said. "We had lived through similar times, listened to the same loud records, read the same poets and philosophers. I have found myself at family dinner tables arguing that Russian society could benefit from a feminist upheaval. The parents of the three members of Pussy Riot recalled having similar arguments with their daughters."

The older Lerner was motivated to tell Pussy Riot’s story through one of the most powerful weapons he knew: film. "Today we are so bombarded by news and snippets of information, I think a documentary is the only way to really understand the human realities behind massively important and complex events such as the situation with Russian democracy right now," he said. "What attracts me to stories [in my films]is how these important stories about global politics can be told in an intimate, human and perhaps even entertaining way. "

Pozdorovkin added, "It is a universal story of a younger generation making itself heard by any means necessary."

Despite different filmmaking experiences, Lerner and Pozdorovkin were friends and decided to make the film together based on what they could each bring to the tale. "This seemed like the perfect story on which to collaborate, " Pozdorovkin said. "When I first met Mike, we got along immediately having similar taste in film, music, and politics. It’s hard to imagine a better foundation for a partnership."

Lerner said, "The working process with Mr. Pozdorovkin evolved very organically. Obviously, as a native Russian, he has a highly evolved sense of the complexities of the situation and I as an outsider [who] tends to see the more universal aspects – and a combination of both of these positions I think gives a very balanced and accessible telling of what is a highly idiosyncratic tale."

After gaining extraordinary access to the members of Pussy Riot and their families and friends, the story became clear, and Pozdorovkin argued that the narrative has relevance to American society in 2013. "The film offers a multi-faceted view of Russia today,"he said. "As was the case with the Occupy movement in the US, it shows the Russian government siding with the conservative elements of society ."

Lerner too saw the parallels between Russia and his homeland. "Nadia, Masha and Katia are three of the most remarkable women I have ever encountered," he said. "I am convinced that they will play an important role in the development of democracy and freedom of expression in their country. Their influence on the film is to confirm how important their story is, not only for Russia but for the rest of the world, struggling as it is, with the problems of freedom, gender equality and justice."

But, in a way, the film documents a strain that is distinctly Russian. "The members of Pussy Riot are intellectuals who see themselves as continuing a Russian artistic and cultural lineage," Pozdorovkin said. "Familiarity with this heritage no doubt enriches one’s experience of the story."

— "Pussy Riot — A Punk Prayer"

World Cinema Documentary

Screenings:

Friday, Jan. 18. 8:30 p.m. • Prospector Square Theatre, 2175 Sidewinder Dr., Park City

Saturday, Jan. 19, 6:45 p.m. • Broadway Centre Cinema 3, 111 E. Broadway (300 South), Salt Lake City

Sunday, Jan. 20, 1 p.m. • Redstone Cinema 2, 6030 North Market St., Park City

Wednesday, Jan. 23, 9 a.m. • Temple Theatre, Located on Highway 224, Park City

Thursday, Jan. 24, 6 p.m. • Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Park City

— David Burger



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Latest Sundance Videos


Latest Sundance Multimedia
Latest Sundance Multimedia
Latest Sundance Multimedia
Latest Sundance Multimedia
Latest Sundance Multimedia


 
Jobs
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.