Glenn here with the first of three pieces looking at this year’s 15 finalists for Best Documentary. Watch along with us!
Prior to the announcement of the shortlist, I had seen roughly 30 of the 151 contenders. Hopefully by the end of the week I will have managed to catch up with all 15 of the shortlisted titles, which will be the first time that has ever happened. As Team Experience's apparent resident doc expert, I am determined to do it, although I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that I couldn't catch even more of the longlist. 151 is a lot even for me.
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
Synopsis: Filmed over the course of 6 months, this documentary tells the incredible story of three young moments of Pussy Riot, a Russian activist punk band out to disrupt the status quo and bring attention to their homeland's injustices by the hand of Vladimir Putin.
Director: Mike Lerner (Oscar nominee, Hell and Back Again) and Maxim Pozdorovkin
Festivals: Bath, Brisbane, Cornwall, Eastend, GAZE LGBT, Melbourne, New Zealand, Seattle, Sheffield, Sundance, Sydney, Vancouver.
Awards: Special Jury Prize (Sundance), Best Documentary (British Independent Film Awards).
Box Office: N/A (qualifying run), available on HBOgo
Review: If TV networks had Christian Bale balls they would air this illuminating documentary on a never-ending loop parallel to the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia. They don't and they won't - although maybe HBO, who screened it last summer alongside other long-listed titles such as Valentine Road and Gasland 2 - will. The film itself isn't particularly brilliant, but works as a perfect entry point into the story of Pussy Riot. A story, just by the way, that continues to evolve to this day. It's a very standard documentary, simply charting the story of the imprisonment and subsequent farce of a trial of three Pussy Riot members after they stormed a church alter and performed an anti-Putin anthem. I'm glad I watched it, although there are areas that the filmmakers could have expanded like Russia's growing feminist movement and the history of it.
Oscar: The branch could respond to the very timely subjects of not just artistic oppression and censorship, but also Russia's glaringly plummeting human rights record. The branch has gone with an unexpected music doc before - Tupac: Resurrection in 2003 - but even then, the music of Pussy Riot are a, shall we say, acquired taste. And they did just award Searching for Sugarman. A vote for this film would be more a vote for the issue than the film.