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Screening of Pussy Riot Documentary Canceled in Moscow

Pussy Riot After Release H
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Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (right) and Maria Alyokhina

The center's artistic director slams the decision to cancel the "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer" event as a form of "censorship."

MOSCOW -- Moscow authorities canceled a screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, which features the two recently released Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.

The event was scheduled to be held at Gogol Center on Dec. 29, but the head of the city's culture department, Sergei Kapkov, sent a letter to the center's artistic director Kirill Serebrennikov, demanding that the event be canceled on a pretext that it wasn't included in the previously approved schedule.

However, the letter, a scanned copy of which Serebrennikov published on his Facebook account, also gives other reasons for the authorities' decision. "I am deeply convinced that a state-run cultural institution should not be associated with names of people who trigger such a mixed reaction and whose activities are focused on provoking society," reads the letter.

Serebrennikov also condemned the decision as "censorship" afterward. "Who could be so scared by a quiet discussion between several hundreds of Gogol Center audiences and the girls released under an amnesty bill?" he said in his comments. "Who could be so much scared by the premiere of a film that has collected a bunch of awards and could not tell us anything new about either the authorities or us, as it was made quite a while ago. I don't understand it."

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, directed by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin, premiered last January at Sundance Film Festival, where it collected the Special Jury Prize. Later, the film landed on the short list of films vying for the Academy Award in the Best Documentary Feature nomination.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who received two-year prison sentences for the anti-Putin "punk prayer" at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012, were released last week under an amnesty bill.