• Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials



    Released By: MVD Visual
    Released On: January 23, 2018.
    Director: Evgeny Mitta
    Cast: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Michael Patrick Nicholson, Chelsea Lopez, Michael Godere
    Year: 2015
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    The Film:

    Unless you lived under a rock or in an isolated cabin in the woods with no internet or newspaper access in 2012, you've heard of Pussy Riot, the Russian punk/feminist/LGBT/protest/art collective that gained international notoriety when they dared to stand up against Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church. The 2015 documentary, "Act & Punishment: The Pussy Riot Trials" attempts to paint a picture of the group from the 2011 founding through the 2012 trial, and up to and including their performance at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, where they were assaulted by Cossacks.

    Split off from another performance art collective known as Voina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova formed the basis of Pussy Riot with Yekaterina Samutsevich and Mariya Alyokhina, determined to challenge the authority of the government, gender stereotypes and Russian machismo. Using colourful clothing and balaclavas so as not to frighten people by wearing the dark masks of the oppressive State, Pussy Riot welcomed a revolving door of female participants who helped pen songs and perform the raw and amateurish punk music in public, spitting out lyrics created to raise awareness, but guaranteed to offend. Performances in subway stations and on top of street cars got the public's notice as well as that of the police, and the group found their ranks being depleted as members chose to call it a day rather than be detained by authorities.

    Further performances in Red Square and on the roof across from the prison gained the group further notoriety, and clashes in the street with cops became a regular occurrence. But it was their somewhat botched performance of "Mother of God, Drive Putin Away" in the temple of the Russian Orthodox Church that wrote Pussy Riot's place in history, a performance instigated by the Patriarch's previous publicized statements that God was on the side of potential Head of State, Vladimir Putin. Though the group never got the chance to perform properly, with the version most commonly seen on social media featuring overdubbing and inserts, both Church and State reacted swiftly and angrily, charging Nadya, Masha, and Katya under the Criminal Code, with severe sentences attached.

    Act & Punishment not only examines the actions of Pussy Riot, with intimate interviews with all three players, footage of performances and fights in the street, as well as numerous interviews with friends, and colleagues, it also utilizes historians to draw connections between this modern-day form of protest, and the type of outspoken criticism that has taken place throughout Russia's history. Writer and Director Evgeny Mitta also showcases the reaction on the world stage, documenting the involvement of such diverse acts as Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Faith No More (who are shown performing, "We Care A Lot" with colourful balaclavas and flares in Moscow Stadium) as they attempt to spread awareness for the cause.

    There's a ton of information packed into Act & Punishment's 90 minutes, and that's really the only flaw in the flow of the film; it rarely gives the viewer time to breathe, a detriment considering that the quickly-spoken interviews are in Russian and require speedy reading to keep up. Mitta's timeline also gets confusing at points, sometimes jumping around, and if you don't know this story intimately, following along can be difficult at times. That being said, the film is a great resource of knowledge on the subject, even if there are better documentaries on the topic already out there.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    MVD/Cleopatra brings Act & Punishment to DVD in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that looks okay, but given the wide variety of video sources used, shouldn't be expected to be pristine. Artifacting, chops, banding, blur, interlacing....it's all here, though never such a detriment that it prevents adequate viewing. A Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track carries the primary audio, which is Russian, with options to view with or without English subtitles. Though they are easy to see, be aware that some of these subs definitely suffer from being lost in translation. As with the mixed-bag of video, audio ranges from good to not-so-good, but is always audible.

    A Trailer, as well as a 2-minute Slideshow set to Peaches' "Free Pussy Riot" are also available.

    The Final Word:

    Though my money would be on 2013's, "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer" if I was forced to choose, "Act & Punishment" does a decent job of conveying the essential facts of the Pussy Riot story, with some great footage and current-ish interviews.






















    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Maureen Champ's Avatar
      Maureen Champ -
      I remember when we've been scammed after 2012 election, and now we have declared a strike for another false election 'cause the corrupt Church does the best to make scumbag like Putin stay in Kremlin again.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      People have short memories, unfortunately.