Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2014: Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus
Madeleine Sackler’s astounding documentary Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus follows the lives of six members of the Belarus Free Theatre around the 2010 election who, despite the threats to their own liberty under president Alexander Lukashenko’s repressive regime, use their talent and art to convey the tyranny under which the Belarusian people are forced to live. It is the only hope they have of changing the status quo.
Dubbed as “the last presidential dictatorship in Europe”, the people of Belarus are living in a civil rights nightmare while the rest of the world walks on by in a ghostly oblivious state. In fact, it is hard to comprehend how we could ignore what has been happening on our own European doorstep over the past 16 years, yet have no qualms about bulldozing the Middle East nations of Iraq and Lybia. Citizens have disappeared at the hands of the KGB, women threatened with assault, men and women imprisoned, elections rigged, journalists kidnapped, protests banished, peaceful demonstrations turned to bloodbaths. It is no surprise that people are so fearful of putting their head above the parapet, that they tow the dictatorial line, like chained slaves to the gallows.
Comprised of authentic footage of demonstrations and uncensored interviews, which had to be smuggled out of the country with the help of a local camerawoman, Sackler gives audiences a front-row seat to a resistance movement as it unfolds both on the stage and in the streets. The natural stars of this film, and of the real world, are Andrei Sannikov, Oskar Eustis, Vladimir Shcherban, Nikolai Khalezin, Natalia Koliada and Pavel Gorodnitski, whom we first meet in the opening credits as they act out the bloodied protest that dark day in October Square – capturing the oppressive sounds of marching military with a few inflated balloons is genius. Fuelled by a yearning for freedom in Belarus, their art knows no bounds, winning them accolades in New York and at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Perhaps what they truly deserve is a globally recognised award for their unadulterated dedication to civil rights. Their bravery is simply overwhelming, their determination relentless.
Sackler’s film is a union of art and activism. If you are not afraid to confront veiled questions about the world we live in or engage in the appalling plight that the Belarusian people endure, then you should definitely watch this powerful and unforgettable documentary.
Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus is released in select cinemas on 28th March 2014.
Watch the trailer for Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus here: