‘Pussy Riot’ Makes the Trek to Gotham, Thanks to HBO

Mike Lerner, Sheila Nevins, Maxim Pozdorovkin

Salman Rushdie made a rare appearance at the June 5 premiere of “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer,” an HBO doc about Russia’s jailed punk band.

“There’s so many attacks on freedom speech around the world. It’s not a problem that is going away. It’s getting worse,” Rushdie said at the Landmark Sunshine Theater.

It wasn’t easy making a doc about performers Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, who were sentenced to two years in jail for their satiric perf in a Moscow cathedral.

“They were in different cells on different floors. We were very lucky because we were able to obtain the trial footage,” said co-helmer Maxim Pozdorovkin. “Once we had this incredible window into what they were going through we knew we could make a film around the individuals.”

Samutsevich was released on appeal in October 2012, and appeared before the Sunshine audience by Skype for a Q&A after the screening.

“Separated from their children, Nadia and Masha will remain in prison until March 8 so they are really feeling that pain,” said co-helmer Mike Lerner. “We admire the girl’s courage. I hope I’d be as courageous but I’m not sure.”

Post-screening, guests traipsed a few blocks to the Russian lounge Pravda where HBO’s Sheila Nevins mingled with Ben Younger, Onur Tukel, Kathy Najimy and Alex Karpovsky.

“It’s about the pussy fighting Putin,” said Nevins.

Karpovsky commented, “I am interested in people who ruffle feathers because they often lead to new developments. If I were to ruffle feathers it would be for election reform in this country, which would make the process genuinely more fair and democratic.”

“Pussy Riot” airs June 10 on HBO.

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