Saturday 9 May 2020

My Perestroika [2010]

Few countries have undergone the kind of dramatic sociopolitical transition that the erstwhile Soviet Union did – from communism and the Iron Curtain, through Perestroika, Glasnost and dissolution into 15 different countries, to capitalism and oligarchy. Made by independent filmmaker Robin Hessman – she lived in Moscow during the 90s studying film direction, and hence experienced the transition first-hand – My Perestroika is an intimate exercise in oral history suffused with anecdotes and reminiscences, along with a mix of peppy popculturalism, candid reflections and even disillusionment. Instead of historians or narrators, this colossal, complex and epochal transition is chronicled through interviews with five ordinary Moscuvites – married couple Borya and Lyuba Meyerson, both high school teachers and possessing strong political consciousness; she embarrassingly admitting her naivete when she was a student and lamenting the changing social order; he still sporting a hip ponytail from his rebellious days and expressing continued disenchantment at the changed social order; and Borya’s former schoolmates, viz. Ruslan, a former member of an anti-bourgeois punk rock band and now a busker in Moscow’s metro tunnels; Olga, a striking working-class single mother who classifies herself as apolitical; and Andrei, a well-to-do businessman who realized the potential for exclusive men’s shirts from Paris to cater to an increasingly consumerist Russia. The interviews and snippets from their present-day lives were alternated with engaging archival and home video footage, and accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack that ranged from lyrical paeans to lively protest ballads to even rock songs. Despite veering towards propaganda and potentially partisan stances at times, the freewheeling tempo, string of quirky musings and observations, and the underlying weary cynicism, quietly laced the political with the personal.

Director: Robin Hessman
Genre: Documentary/Political History
Language: Russian
Country: US

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