Director Mike Lerner on 'Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer'
What is more important, story or character?
Well I guess the story leads you to the discovery of the characters. But the characters are the essential vehicle for the storytelling.
What made you first want to explore the subject?
The moment I saw photographs of Pussy Riot in Red Square back in January 2012 I knew we had to make a film with them. Once they were arrested and put on trial we felt certain that this was a hugely important moment in Russian political history. No one could have predicted exactly how significant this story was to become and indeed it is still growing. And just wait till Nadia and Masha are released.
How long did it take to get the film off the ground?
We moved in and started making the film immediately after their arrest that was back in March 2012 – we immediately had the support of Storyville and managed to make the film and raise funding as we went along.
What were you most surprised to learn in the course of production?
What I was most surprised to learn is how incredibly radical Pussy Riot are in their politics. I think a lot of people who support their cause, as victims of state repression, would be surprised to learn how uncompromising their brand of militant feminism actually is. That’s what makes me admire them even more. That and how funny they are. Humour is of course the most effective weapon we have when opposing any authority.
What have been the differences in reception to the film in countries it has now travelled to?
It’s surprising how the film does have a different resonance depending on the country it’s being screened. For instance Russian and Ukrainian audiences don’t tend to laugh as much – I think they find the story just too tragic and the dark humour that Western audiences seem to find very funny is lost.
Which documentary has most inspired you?
A Grin Without a Cat – Chris Marker’s masterpiece about the nature of revolution.
Person you’d most like to interview (living or dead?)
Best piece of filmmaking advice you’ve ever been given?
If it’s not probably impossible it’s not worth doing.
Best piece of filmmaking equipment you can’t live without?
If money were no object, what is your dream documentary subject?
The complete history of mankind’s struggle for freedom and justice – or something like that.
Favourite film of all time?
The Battle of Algiers - Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
Most difficult access?
They’re all difficult
Best recent read?
A Small Circus by Hans Fallada
- Mike Lerner
- Maxim Pozdorovkin
- Series Editor
- Nick Fraser