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Synopsis

On Feb. 21, 2012, members of the feminist art collective Pussy Riot, donning their colorful trademark balaclavas, or ski masks, participated in a 40-second punk prayer protest on the altar of Moscows Christ the Savior Cathedral before being detained. Arrested and tried for trespassing, wearing inappropriate sleeveless dresses and disrupting social order, Nadia, Masha and Katia were accused of religious hatred in a trial that reverberated around the world and transformed the face of Russian society.

An official selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it received the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Punk Spirit, PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER tells their story with exclusive interviews and unprecedented access to courtroom footage.

Filmed over the course of six months by directors Mike Lerner (HBOs Afghan Star) and Maxim Pozdorovkin, PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER reveals the real people behind the balaclavas. Through interviews with band members, family and the defense team and unprecedented footage of the trial, the film highlights the forces that transformed these women from playful political activists to modern-day icons, exposing the state of Russian justice in the modern era.

Pussy Riot group shot

Founded in 2011 after Vladimir Putin was given a third term as Russian president amidst accusations of impropriety, Pussy Riot is an anonymous feminist art collective/punk band based in Moscow. The groups protest inside the cathedral was intended to protest Putins union of church and state.

Mixing farce and tragedy, PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER shows how Nadia, Masha and Katia battled a system determined to make an example of them, featuring footage of the defendants on trial, where they were placed in a glass cage, as well as visceral performances and rehearsals of Pussy Riot shot in and around Moscow. As they defended themselves inside the courtroom, other Pussy Riot members planned new guerilla performances and cultivated a protest movement across the globe. Organizations like Amnesty International and celebrities such as Sting, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and Madonna spoke out in support of their cause and freedom of speech worldwide.

Nadia, Masha and Katia were eventually sentenced to two years at a labor camp, although Katias conviction was overturned on appeal, based on the fact that she was not physically present on the altar that day. Nadia and Masha are continuing their legal crusade, while Katia remains part of Pussy Riot.

Pussy Riot artist Maria

Says Mike Lerner, The story of Pussy Riot is about a lot of things: politics, religion, national identity, gender equality, the nature of freedom and the enduring power of punk rock.Notes Maxim Pozdorovkin, The fact that their 40-second performance inside the Christ the Savior Cathedral could provoke such great controversy reveals a lot about Russia today.

For more information on the documentary, visit: Facebook: facebook.com/hbodocs; and Twitter: @HBODocs #tk.

Pussy Riot artist Katia

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER was produced and directed by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin; editors, Esteban Uyarra, Simon Barker and Pax Wassermann; director of photography, Antony Butts; original music, Simon Russell, Pussy Riot. For HBO: supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.

Pussy Riot artist Nadia

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

Docs Summer Series 2013

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