Maxim Pozdorovkin is an award-winning filmmaker, writer and media curator based in New York City. His documentary PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER was shortlisted for a 2014 Academy Award and released theatrically around the world. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Award and was later broadcast on HBO as the lead off for the channel’s 2013 Documentary Summer Series.
As a native of Moscow, who came to New York as young child, Maxim brings a unique perspective to presenting the story, as a friend and collaborator of the group, as well as through his past work exploring the relationship between art and politics. Maxim holds a PhD from Harvard University, where he taught art history and film, and is currently an artist fellow at Harvard’s prestigious Society of Fellows. Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer tells the story of Russia’s favorite radical provocateurs. From their origins to their most famous performance, at the altar of Russia’s biggest Cathedral, the film tracks the group through their controversial trial on blasphemy charges and subsequent imprisonment.
When sharing the film with audiences, Maxim stresses the multiple layers involved in the Pussy Riot story, the nuances that often go unnoticed and remain underreported. As an artistic phenomenon, Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” is probably the single most controversial and resonant piece of performance art in history. A mélange of punk culture, feminism, social activism and avant-garde art, the work is rife with historical, artistic, and religious references. From the Black Square of Suprematist painter Kazemir Malevich to the ethos of American Riot Grrl culture, Maxim shows Pussy Riot as engaging in dialogue with a century’s worth of art, music, and philosophy.
At the same time, the outrage that met Pussy Riot’s performance from religious fundamentalists, brings to light substantial legal questions about how to draw the line between freedom of expression and religious tolerance. As evidenced by the recent waves of violence sparked by cartoons and other unflattering depictions of the prophet Mohammed, this question is one that is yet to be resolved, making Pussy Riot’s trial on blasphemy charges a key incident in considering this debate.
Navigating the legal and artistic contexts, Maxim’s key emphasis is the global significance of the story. Pussy Riot carries the zeitgeist with them like no other recent news story. Their radical protest against the government of Vladimir Putin, reinvigorated a wave of global uprisings that signal a resurgence of the revolutionary left around the world. We feel this with greater urgency every day. From Kiev to Tahrir, from Occupy Wall Street to Qaddafi’s Palace in Tripoli, Pussy Riot are the icons of a global story about a new generation making its voice heard by any means necessary. Maxim is eager to share this story with audiences.
As a filmmaker and Russia expert, Maxim is a frequent guest on national television and radio, including appearance on The Daily Show with John Stewart, CNN’s Amanpour and WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show. Maxim’s most recent film, THE NOTORIOUS MR. BOUT, about the Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and offers an unprecedented first-person look inside the arms trade. He is currently developing several projects for HBO Documentaries.