RIOT GIRLS: Clad in their trademark jumpers, tights and Fruit Loop-colored balaclavas, two members of Pussy Riot were the surprise guests at the Cinema Society screening on Wednesday in New York of HBO’s new documentary on the Russian punk-rock provocateurs. Speaking through a translator, the duo talked about their efforts to free two imprisoned comrades, Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, who are currently serving two-year prison terms for their acts of political defiance. How they ended up behind bars — a Pussy Riot posse stormed the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral in February 2012 to perform an original ditty called “Punk Prayer: Mother of God, Chase Putin Away” — and their transformation into an international cause célèbre is the focus of the film, which airs Monday.
On hand at the Landmark Sunshine Theater — and the after party at Pravda, natch — were Stacey Bendet Eisner, Nanette Lepore, Charlotte Ronson, Heidi Mount, Amy Sacco, Kelly Bensimon, Kathy Najimy, Drew Nieporent, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Carlos Leon, Sarah Sophie Flicker, John Cameron Mitchell, Amber Tamblyn and Salman Rushdie, who knows a thing or two about political persecution.
“The girls are in the [penal] colony and they don’t see any of it,” said one of the veiled members of Pussy Riot, of the worldwide attention the case has cast on Russia. “They are isolated and it’s very hard for them now.”
Introducing the film, Patti Smith gave a quietly impassioned address to the audience. “To take young girls, mothers and activists — girls with a revolutionary and pure heart — and put them in prison for voicing a prayer, a revolutionary prayer, is incomprehensible,” she said. “Remember, these girls are us.”