How Punk Band's 1-Minute Protest Disrupted a Nation

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Yet the women and the filmmakers contend their intent was not to offend the religiously observant -- Katya even apologized in court to people she said she may have offended -- and the protest was not staged in just any church, but in a church that symbolizes the recent rise of Russian nationalism. Dynamited and destroyed in 1931 by Stalin and replaced by the world's largest outdoor swimming pool, it was rebuilt on the same spot as the world's tallest Orthodox Christian church in the 1990s. Putin attended Easter services there this past year, presided over by Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Orthodox Church who has called Putin's rule a "miracle of God" and who vigorously pursued the arrest and prosecution of Pussy Riot members.

"This cathedral," says Nadya in the film, "symbolizes the union of church and state. That's not how it should be."

For Lerner, it was not Pussy Riot that was on trial in the courtroom, but "the regime." The women, whom he sees as "patriotic," are "trying to make Russia a better place.... I don't want to sound overly in love with the whole thing, but it was a great thrill."

Pozdorovkin said he "was showing the film to my mother, who didn't like them, and she still feels uneasy. At the end of watching the film, she understands how brave and eloquent they are," although, he added, "she doesn't accept that their means were appropriate." And like the filmmaker's mother, many in Russia who did not initially support the women came to see the crackdown on them as excessive.

For Pozdorovkin, as a filmmaker it was the "rich dramatic tension as you watch them go through this ordeal" that was so compelling. Their cathedral protest was "performance art plus the iconography of the Russian religious movement. They're performing a church service in some way, their idea of a feminist mass."

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