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Pussy Riot Member Skypes at Sundance Premiere

No plans to make an album: 'We reject commercialism of any sort'

Yekaterina "Katya" Samutsevich
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages
January 21, 2013 1:00 PM ET

At the Sundance Film Festival this weekend, Pussy Riot's Katya Samutsevich was greeted with cheers as she Skyped into the Q&A for the documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer.

The film by Maxim Pozdorovkin and Mike Lerner – just acquired by HBO Films – centers around the band's trial for disturbing the peace, taking viewers inside the courtroom with original footage from the trial. The directors speak with the girls' mothers, fathers, friends and lawyers, exploring Russian patriarchy, the country's judicial system and the three convicted band members' biographies.

Pussy Riot: Their Trial in Photos

After the screening, co-director Pozdorovkin translated Samutsevich's answers for the audience. She reported that the women are all on good terms, said they have no plans to release a commercial album and still thinks they didn't deserve any punishment. Here is a transcipt of the audience Q&A:

While she was in prison, did she know about the global awareness the band's imprisonment was raising?
We did know that there was some sort of global awareness going on – we heard about it and then as it got bigger and bigger, and with Madonna's performance and all these other things, we felt that there was more support coming our way. We were fairly isolated in the jail but after that, we did know.

Even though the trio stayed strong, was there any resentment felt from the other two women who remained imprisoned, after Katya was released?
There wasn't really any feelings. Even until the 10th, we were all certain that we were going into a penal colony together. As I remembered it, they were all very happy for me. I went to visit them the day after I got out, so I don't think there's hard feelings.

When the girls get out, will you continue doing music together?
We are probably not going to change our general approach, and just approach an action exactly as we do.

Do you feel like you deserve any form of punishment for your actions?
We used to joke about this question a lot, and no, we didn't feel we deserved any punishment. It was a form of activist feminist art.

Are you afraid for yourself or the safety of your families moving forward?
No, I don't fear any significant backlash from the religious community, because part of that was this kind of a mass campaign against them to get them to go against the defense, and that was just mostly words and threats. In terms of the government response, I think that we're probably on several blacklists and extremism lists, and it may be that in the future when we continue to do performances, they will try to press criminal charges for smaller things, smaller actions.

Does Katya have any hope that the other two girls' sentences will also be suspended?
There's hope that not all legal means have been used up, so they will continue to fight so that all opportunities will be used up.

Did you ever officially release an album, and do they have plans to?
No, we reject commercialism of any sort, and we have no plans to release anything commercial. We will never commodify our art.

Right now in Russia, how much is still going on with regards to Pussy Riot?
For Pussy Riot right now, most of the battle is to get Nadya [Nadezhda Tolokonnikova] and Masha [Maria Alyokhina] out of jail through legal means. Also, they're fighting because the punk prayer in November was deemed extremist and ordered removed from the Internet, so now they're repealing those decisions. In terms of opposition, it's a tough situation – because of the repressive means that were used before, there's less of a drive for people coming out on the streets.

There were two other people in the band that weren't arrested. What happened with them?
They're fine. They're in Russia [laughter].

What do the people of Russia think of Pussy Riot?
If you take just the average opinion, it tends to be overall negative of [us]. And part of the reason for this is because of the way the performance was presented, it was considered almost exclusively as a religious act of hooliganism. So that's what most people tend to believe. Whereas the feminist and political aspect of our performance has been largely ignored, and this points to the larger problem of cultural education, that people don't understand it as a piece of art.

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