• Vladimir Putin prattles on like some buffoonish Disney villain. Atop an elegant steed, he preens, shirtless and grinning. He conveys an inflated fearlessness. As though he’s compensating for one, unshakable, unspoken terror. An affront to his machismo. A Pussy Riot. “He’s scared of us,” Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova proclaimed at a recent Los Angeles screening of Pussy Vs. Putin, a fly-on-the-wall documentary by Gogol’s Wives about her band’s fight for women’s and LGBT rights in Russia. The protest artist sat tall and assured as she and band mate (and jail mate) Maria “Masha” Alyokhina answered questions from an audience that included major film producer Roland Emmerich. (He hosted a dinner in honor of their launching Zona Prava, an NGO focused on prisoner advocacy.) The two outspoken women, along with Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested in February 2012 on counts of “hooliganism” when Pussy Riot performed inside the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. The impassioned coup appears in this documentary, with the feminist group chanting “A gay-pride parade [has been] sent to Siberia in shackles,” a foreshadowing of the musicians’ fate. Samutsevich served under a year’s sentence, and the evening’s speakers logged nearly two years behind bars, undergoing hunger strikes and alleged slave labor.
    Though Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova have publicly decried their December 2013 release a stunt by Putin to cull the world’s favor ahead of the Sochi Olympics, they now use their incarceration as inspiration to help other political prisoners. “Little victories are very important,” Alyokhina insisted. When guards are fired for flouting their own laws, she sees that as a win for justice. When any woman on the planet sports a balaclava and a dress and challenges the patriarchy, that’s deemed a win. And there’s been a fair share of big victories. The doc revisits Madonna’s 2012 Russian concert in which she bared Pussy Riot’s name on her back, and when members of the guerilla collective took the stage with Faith No More. Paul McCartney had even penned letters urging the release of the band from jail. One audience member asked the duo during the Q&A what “Mission Accomplished” would look like to them. Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova exchanged a smirk and chattered, looking to the latter’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, to translate. But there was practically no need— their reaction spoke thunderously: Pussy Riot’s work will never be finished. There will always be a need for women to voice opposition against injustice, especially through the provocative filter of punk rock. Watch Pussy Vs. Putin at JMan.tv.

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