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Pussy Riot not able to extend its oeuvr

Though they came here with "a specific mission," as Shaiba put it, to meet with their supporters and recruit new ones, Pussy Riot were surprised by the volume and warmth of the reception.

"We came specially to meet with these people, but we didn't expect that there would be so many," Fara said.

"That they are so nice and generous!" Shaiba added.

"That we're all on the same wavelength," Fara concluded.

They met with organizers at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, a music-mentoring program based in Brooklyn, but they were quick to note that, though they have released a single and are often described as a punk act, Pussy Riot is not, strictly speaking, a band.

"It's an art group, not a musical group -- this is very important," Fara said. They are multimedia, site-specific, activist performers. "We work from the space or the problem," she explained.

At the moment, though, Pussy Riot is not able to extend its oeuvre: After the arrests, the Russian government drafted laws banning the wearing of masks and imposing hefty fines for unauthorized demonstrations. Pussy Riot's videos were labeled extremist and ordered removed from Russian-hosted Internet sites (though they are still available on YouTube).

"For anybody that wants to follow in our footsteps, this is a direct disruption of freedom of speech, this is like a muzzle," Fara said, adding that they will keep fighting the ruling.

Performance is not much on their minds, anyway.

"From the moment the girls were arrested," Fara said, "our entire focus has shifted toward securing their freedom and helping them." Last August, "the girls" -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich -- were sentenced to two years in prison for an act of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred." Ms. Samutsevich was released in October but forbidden to leave Russia, while the other two remain in separate and remote penal colonies. In the spring, as expected, they were denied parole.

Visiting them is impossible for the other current members of Pussy Riot: they don't want to risk revealing their identities to the authorities, and besides, navigating the prison rules is difficult even for lawyers and family members. Scheduled phone calls can be suddenly canceled. Letters and e-mail are censored. "The only thing that gets through is 'Hi' and 'Bye,' " Fara said.

Ms. Alyokhina, who turned 25 on Thursday, staged an 11-day hunger strike last month to protest conditions in prison; it ended when authorities acceded to her demands, her lawyer said.

Maxim Pozdorovkin, a Moscow-born, Brooklyn-based filmmaker who directed the HBO documentary with Mike Lerner, said he was impressed by the solidarity and eloquence of the women. "They've used what happened in the best way possible, to continue propagating their ideas and for sticking to the ideas as a group," he said.

The film has been making the festival rounds and is to be shown in Moscow this winter, though Mr. Pozdorovkin said it was unclear how that would work with the video ban.

"One of the things that I always hope to show is that these women are patriots and they really want to transform their society for the better," he said. "They're not just vulgar hooligans, which is pretty much how they've been portrayed in the general channels in Russia."


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