Interview with Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin

  • How and when did you get involved in the story?

  • I started in February of last year when pictures of Pussy Riot started to appear in the London press, just before the cathedral event. I've spent my life making films about the place where art and politics meet and immediately was alerted to the potential for this story. Once they had been arrested, I knew for certain we should be making a film with these guys.

  • Was it the cathedral setting or that they were women that touched a nerve?

  • For the people inside the cathedral, the biggest offense was that they went near the altar. They trespassed where no one, except the patriarch, is allowed to go.

  • How did you get their families to participate in the documentary?

  • Masha's mother was very reluctant because she had been hounded by the press in a number of negative pieces about them. Nadia's father has been very vocal and open. The other two parents are very unused to being in the public eye. They really wanted to keep a low profile.

  • How did the trial play in Russia?

  • It was a huge soap opera and there were protests outside of the courtroom, people both for and against them. It was like a miniature of the whole thing. Most Russians still do not like them and believed they should have been punished. But the consensus is slipping; people now believe the punishment was too harsh.

  • So in Russia, are all defendants caged during proceedings?

  • It does seem so incredibly medieval, three women in an iron cage. But they weren't getting special treatment. That is what happens in a Russian court. For us, it seemed like the perfect metaphor for martyrdom.

  • Did Pussy Riot ever expect to become an international story?

  • They had no idea. But they're media performance artists and they measure success by the degree of provocation. They probably couldn't believe they could cause so much.

  • How do Nadia and Masha feel about Katia being out while they're still serving sentences?

  • Katia has worked tirelessly on filing appeals on all sorts of levels. Both for the original trial, based on improper process, as well helping with the appeals for early release of the women. In a guerilla group, there's no benefit to have everyone behind bars.

  • Since the appeals continue, will you be making updates to the documentary?

  • I think if something extraordinary happened, that would be cause to go back. But the story is about what these women do in court during the trial.

  • The film opens with a Brecht quote about the transformative power of art. What do you hope to achieve by telling this story?

  • Exactly that. How sometimes, art can do what nothing else can do. It transforms consciousness. The lasting legacy of Pussy Riot has yet to be determined, but we both think it's quite enormous. Although Putin is not about to be deposed, they have created something in the subconscious, certainly with the younger generation. And internationally, their influence is enormous.