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|Index||15 reviews in total|
It's a unique story related with a particular period of political
upheaval, and at the same time it's a general story about a nostalgia
that all of us sympathize with. It's a Nostalgia for the days that we
didn't have to worry about severe competitions, untrustworthy policies,
unfair present and ambiguous future. It was the time we could find a
peace of mind from the passivity and obedience. We were not ready
enough to deal well with an unexpected freedom. We're also not ready to
accept numerous choices and the results that we're responsible for.
We don't even know how to explain clearly, if someone asked us why that time was better to us. We just know it was better. We're still not sure about the present. However, sometimes we found ourselves surprisingly living well in the present without any distinct understanding about it.
Documentaries are rarely powerful enough to let me watch to the end.
Firstly, the voice over usually has an I-know-all, scholarly tone of
voice that makes me cringe. Secondly, when famous scientists are
invited to say a few words, they are commonly limited to (indeed) a few
words, since too many long words may tick off the average viewer.
Should I go on??
This time I gladly make an exception to my rule. The chosen format is perfectly suited to bring the mixed message across. It does not "feel" like a documentary at all. The idea to round up a handful of average people, and letting them picture their own past, is very good. This is mostly due to the fact that a real cross section of the Russian people does the talking, supported by photos and film fragments, partly from their past and partly from television.
The concept was not immediately clear from the start, and it required some time to take off. The talking heads (in the positive sense) were filmed in their own environment (home, school, their business, etcetera), and were just themselves telling us about their past and present ideas. This works perfectly, also providing us with some insight in the circumstances these people live(d) in.
All in all, I'm glad that I overlooked the fact that this film was announced as a "documentary". This is a format for which new terminology should be invented.
Robin Hessman's "My Perestroika" is an interesting view of a world
unknown. For these people, growing up during the time that they did was
something completely new, and because of this they had no one to turn
to. This film helps you to understand what growing up in a different
world is like. As their government collapsed and the Soviet Union was
no more these individuals found their lives becoming more and more
From a production standpoint, this film is well made despite Hessman's lack of equipment and crew. She conducted the interviews herself with her camera in hand, and while it's not as stylized as many recent documentaries, it fits the tone of the film perfectly. This method also brings the audience closer to the individuals and allows for a more personal connection with them. The archival footage in the film is used in a creative way; similar shots of archival footage (such as the first day of school) juxtaposed with current shots. This method works as a metaphor for the generation gap between these individuals and the following generation.
Finally, I am amazed with the understanding that Hessman has of this situation not being from Russia. It shows that this documentary was well research and was cared for every step of the way.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was lucky enough to see "My Perestroika" at NYC's IFC Center, where
director Robin Hessman answered questions following a screening of her
film. She stressed that her documentary isn't so much representative of
all Russians, but rather a cross-section of "ordinary Russians living
in extra-ordinary times." Hessman focused her lens on five childhood
classmates who entered school in communist Moscow but came of age
during the fall of the Iron Curtain. She had incredible access to her
five subjects: punk rocker Ruslan, single mom Olga, successful
businessman Andrei, and married history teachers Borya and Lubya. By
shooting solo (instead of relying on a cameraman), Hessman was able to
develop a rapport with her subjects, prompting them to open up.
Although they seemed nostalgic about their idyllic childhood, they also
appeared to wish to leave it in the past. By the end, they all seemed
nonchalant about the current government. The film's strength lies in
its use of the subjects' own 8mm home movies (juxtaposed alongside
vintage propaganda films). This film could easily have been constructed
with talking heads waxing poetic about the fall of the USSR, but it
wouldn't have been as compelling. By focusing on (relatable)
characters, Hessman puts a face on the (last generation of the) Cold
War, which until now had been a nebulous concept for me.
By the end, I wanted to down vodka shots with Ruslan and Borya! My only gripe is that I wanted to see more interaction among the five childhood classmates. Olga lived around the corner from Borya and Lubya, but we never see them interact. We know Borya and Lubya still keep contact with Ruslan, but do any of them still keep in touch with Andrei and Olga? I suppose that is another strength of Hessman's storytelling...that she painted these protagonists in such a way that I wanted to know more about them. May I suggest a follow-up documentary?
My Perestroika successfully portraits personal impressions about the
Soviet Union offering a refreshing counterpoint of ideas between
characters. Perestroika can be understood for many as a Russian word
connected with an important moment in Russian history. I can say that
after following the stories of these 5 friends in Moscow I have a deep
sense of human connection and respect for people who was dramatically
affected in the process that Russia held around the 90s. I have an
understanding of what Perestroika meant for them.
Parallels between how these characters grew up and how their children are growing up nowadays allow audiences to perceive the contrast between communism and capitalism. This humanist film is a refined documentary full of cinematographic details and relevant opinions about an important historic issue.
I was blown away by how easy it was for me (as well as for my husband)
to relate to this film but I don't think you have to be of similar
background in order to find this film fascinating and enlightening.
I loved that the film wasn't solely political, but focused more on these people's lives instead. This was an excellent little window into people's lives. Of course, this cannot be representative of all Russians, but these five people have very different lives and it was interesting to see what choices or happenings led them to where they are today.
There is much nostalgia present in this film, although I do not think that this nostalgia is for the Soviet regime. Like all people, these subjects are nostalgic for their childhoods, when everything seemed better and one simply did not have to deal with any real, mundane problems. Their reflections are very heartwarming.
All in all, I highly recommend this film.
A bunch of children strolling around during the first day of school :
the beginning and the end of the movie are similar in form, but not in
substance. Indeed, the whole movie is about how the Russian society was
before 1991 and how the USSR collapse impacted people's lives.
We follow Borya, Olga, Andrei and others through their childhood and present lives : it's funny how they were similar during the first period but how they differ now; through the film, you understand that although the perestroika allowed people to leave freer, it also gave them a sense of instability, or as one of the characters say, a sense of inutility.
This movie may appeal to people interested in contemporary Russian history, but also those who are into psychology issues. There is a lot of thinking coming after you've seen Olga looking blankly at the window...
For the last couple decades, the US has had very, very little interest
in Russia. It seems that after the Cold War technically ended, most
Americans just wanted to assume everything was fine and go on with our
lives. However, while the old regimes are gone, in its place is a lot
of uncertainty--and this documentary does a great job of discussing the
historical context for the new Russia as well as the vague
dissatisfaction many there feel today. It's all enlightening--even if
there are no clear answers.
The film consists of the filmmakers following several 40-something Russians and just letting them talk. You have no narration--it's just like the folks are talking to you. Much of the film is a discussion of the old Soviet Union and its fall. I liked how the filmmakers juxtaposed this footage with old propaganda film from the Soviet government--it did a good job illustrating the old regime. The rest of the film concerned present-day Russia which is NOT such a clear picture. While the participants generally felt things are better, they were VERY jaded and seemed to have no faith in the current Putin government. However, how they react to this and the new sense of capitalism varies and is quite interesting to see--such as the idealistic man who has sort of dropped out of society. An interesting historical portrait of the old and a confusing view of the future--which is probably indicative of the average Russian's view of life in their country. It was the most telling when one said "What has really changed?". Fascinating and well made.
Combining vintage footage with modern interviews gives an informative glimpse into the everyday life of children in the Soviet Union and how different things are today for both the children and the adults. The interviews with the now-adults about their childhood were, in my opinion the most enlightening and interesting, as well as the portions about what it was actually like going through perestroika and glasnost. I thought it could have had a stronger theme tying the people together, but it may have just been a product of what the premise of the film was. Anyone interested in what Communism was actually like should definitely watch this.
Life goes on. Political systems change. Economies provide wealth for
all, or not. We ring the bell to start the school year, and life goes
This documentary takes the five graduates of PS 57 in Moscow through the wild changes of Perestroika and the end of the Soviet Union. The "money" line for me was "No sausage, but we were happy". In the old days they had less but life felt good. The film addresses the complicated question of Socialism vs. Capitalism, but not directly. And that's a strength. The lives of the five subjects are sketched out., The huge drama of the Soviet Union collapsing is reported succinctly. We get to see the outline of these lives. We get to ponder the tense present of some, the placid present of others, and compare it to the stable and happy but less prosperous earlier life.
A life on potatoes but without sausage seems grim to a materialist. A prosperous life without joy seems grim to a spiritualist. Both the Soviet Union and America were mixed economies. Both had socialist and capitalist elements. What's the right mix? This film is excellent background material for those pondering this question. It's also a great review of the last two decades of Moscow life.
Minor complaint: though the entire film is in Moscow, and the "no sausage" line seems more like a description of Perestroika outside the major cities.
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