In 40 seconds, the whole world can change. During the entirety of this film, I kept screaming in my head, “What the $@*& ?!” Both enraging and inspiring, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer is a documentary that follows Nadia, Masha and Katia up to the point of their arrest in 2012. Inducing such outrage, similar to the effect of Paradise Lost, Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock collective composed of girls who go around playing guitar and screaming their opinions about the wrongdoings of their government and Putin, especially the marriage of church and state. They describe what they do as performance art, and holy shit, do these girls have balls.

For 40 seconds they stormed into a Moscow cathedral and began to perform up on the altar. Was what they did outrageous? Yes. Does it deserve being sentenced to three years of jail time? No way. What’s ridiculous is the religious opposition the girls receive. Cut to a scene of the “religious patriarchs,” a handful of scruffy-looking 50-year-old biker dudes having a meeting in a Count of Monte Christo catacomb-esque basement. They’re wearing black t-shirts under leather vests with “Orthodoxy or Death” on them with skulls, which they not-so-cleverly rephrase as not being a threat, but rather they’d be dead if they didn’t have their religion when asked about it. As they discuss the girls, my favorite quote was, “Pussy is a devious word. It means kitten but also the uterus…but the best translation is ‘deranged vagina.’” Essentially they determine that the leader, Nadia, is a demonic vagina with a brain.

As they gather their crosses and load them into their car, they cite the Salem witch trials, saying that if this were happening back then they could burn them at the stakes, but right now they need to be forgiving. The one man keeps referring to the cross as his best weapon. Anytime you reference your religion as a weapon, I strongly think you need to reevaluate yourself. It’s another example of behaving badly and using religion as an excuse for it.

First of all, did you know that in Russia you’re put in a cage in the court room? Yeah, you heard me right. All bizarreness aside, each girl makes a speech. Nadia is the epitome of strength. Talk about strong-willed. Despite their intellectual pleas explaining that their intent was to express that women should be allowed to lead service on the altar not to intentionally offend religious believers, all three get sentenced to three years in a penal colony. Shortly after, Katia gets let off out of a loophole that she didn’t actually physically commit any act of hooliganism. They go back to the video footage of that infamous day, and Katia didn’t actually get the chance to pick up her guitar before police grabbed her. Now please tell me, if they all got arrested for hooliganism inspired by religious hatred, how does that make sense? She still had the same intent. Bottom line, these girls are highly intelligent, confident and knew the risk they were taking. They aren’t scared during the trial but rather smirk, laugh and question the very justice system as it’s physically standing right in front of them. Out of all the performances Pussy Riot have done, this is their biggest stage. There’s an ending line the filmmakers leave you with, as Nadia sits in a cell collecting her thoughts, then writing something on a piece of paper. Must have been jail security footage they got a hold of. She holds up the paper which says, “I didn’t want to be in jail for my beliefs. But I have to.” Wow.

If you take away anything from this film, it’d be easy to get caught up in solely feeling like, “Thank God I live in America where we have freedom of speech.” But take a moment to turn the lens on yourself. What would you be willing go to jail for, or even give up years of your life for? Someone? Something? If you are unsure, this film will definitely make you realize your own backbone, and Pussy Riot will (rightfully) live on in history. All because of 40 seconds. And you thought it took so much time to cause a change.

In a word: Awakening

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