FILM OF THE WEEK: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
BBC Four, Monday October 21, 10pm
To some, the mere mention of the word ‘documentary’ will have them reaching for the remote as if their lives depended on it. Why should they want to watch an hour and a half of reality when Hollywood’s sexed-up version hits the pleasure nodes faster than a shock direct to the brain? In answer (and to paraphrase Mark Twain): the truth is often stranger – and a hell of a lot more thrilling – than fiction.
To the doubters, try watching Bart Layton’s The Imposter, James Marsh’s Man On Wire and Leon Gast’s When We Were Kings whilst strapped to an ECG machine and see how considerably your pulse quickens as a result. Hence why this column recommends three documentaries this week, all of them from the Modern Outlaws season of the BBC’s consistently brilliant Storyville strand. A feature-length dose of non-fiction they may be, but they are also the sort of incredible tales that even the best screenwriters would struggle to come up with.
First up is Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, an eye-opening account of how a rag-tag collective of young Russian feminists captured the world’s attention when taking a stand against the Putin regime. Following the saga of their trial for trumped-up charges of religious hatred after performing a ‘punk prayer protest’ on the altar of Moscow’s cathedral, it is as compelling as any legal drama you’ll see, and provides an alarming insight into the oppressive nature of the Russian state. The scenes featuring a group of aging male Orthodox acolytes, dressed like a biker gang, emblazoned with the imagery of skulls and weaponry and babbling about witches and the work of the devil, are enough to put you off the country for life.
SET THE RECORDER FOR:
Smash And Grab: The Story Of The Pink Panthers
BBC Four, Tuesday October 22, 10pm
There’s a point in this film where, after seeing two Audis smash through the front of a shopping mall in Dubai, scream down its concourse and drive head first into a jewellery store, it’s almost hard to believe you’re not watching a blockbuster action movie. Of course, there is nothing fictional about those astounding CCTV images, nor the testimonies of several members of the Pink Panthers, a group of notorious diamond thieves who have carried out a series of outrageous heists around the world since the 1990s. Just ten minutes in, it’s easy to see why Danny Boyle has chosen to adapt this documentary as his next feature film.
The Great Hip Hop Hoax
BBC Four, Wednesday October 23, 10pm
If you’ve ever had even the vaguest suspicion that pop music is all a bluff of smoke and mirrors, the story of hip hop group Silibil N’ Brains is for you. A duo of rappers who claimed to come from California, major labels were falling over one another in the scramble to sign them up as the next Eminems. The only thing was, Silibil N’ Brains were actually just plain old Billy and Gavin from Scotland. This is an audacious tale of how two lads from Dundee duped the record industry and nearly destroyed themselves in the process.
Film4, Wednesday October 23, 11:45pm
Richard Ayoade will almost certainly be best known as Moss from hit Channel 4 comedy The IT Crowd, but he’s also been honing his talent behind the camera for some time. After directing several Arctic Monkeys music videos, in 2010 he gave us the wonderfully distinctive coming of age drama Submarine. Produced by Ben Stiller and paying homage to the works of Wes Anderson, it more than whets the appetite for Ayoade’s The Double, starring The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg and due out early next year.