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My Perestroika - Movie Review - 2010

Soviet No Longer

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


My Perestroika - Movie Review - 2010

My Perestroika Poster Art

Bungalow Town Productions
An entire generation of 30-something Russians who were educated in public schools during the last years of the Soviet regime are now sending their kids to the schools they attended -- but life for both the parents and their children is very different during the era of Perestroika.

Director Robin Hessman spent much of the 1990s living and working in Russia, and she has produced and directed an insightful and poignant portrayal of the effects of political, social and economic change that resulted from Perestroika.

Changing With The Times

The cast of five lead characters in My Perestroika includes a married couple, both of whom are teachers, a punk rocker who is a single dad, a single mom who lives with her sister in the apartment in which they both grew up, and a businessman who imports and sells pricey branded shirts. They are all in their 30s. They all attended the same Moscow neighborhood public school during the last years of the Soviet at the public school they attended when they were kids. The couple now teach in the school, which their son now attends. They're ordinary people, who, through Hessman's verite camera, invite you into their homes, give you an intimate glimpse of their life style and openly share their opinions, expectations and aspirations.

They might well be your neighbors, but they've experienced the monumental political, social and political change that occurred when the Soviet system gave way and they -- the Russian people -- embarked on their stunning encounter with Perestroika.

Hessman's verite approach to her subjects and the theme of her film is refreshing. There is no commentary, no opinion offered about what the characters present about themselves. She does, however, help them to establish their take on history by providing us with clips of archival footage that shows the characters during their school days, and they reflect back on what life was like for them when they were kids and felt care free, save and "happy in their Soviet reality." The historic clips allow the cast to reflect on their youth, to investigate their own thoughts about how things have changed.

A Captivating Social Study

The individual stories are quite captivating, particularly because Hessman doesn't editorialize. She never becomes a presence in the film, and the presence of her camera is acknowledged but sparingly by the subjects, even as they soliloquize their private-most thoughts and reveal their emotions. Because of this, the film plays more like a narrative feature -- actually, The Big Chill (1983) comes to mind, probably because it's about 30-somethings looking back at their formative years, albeit they're Americans and are revisiting the relationships formed during their college days -- than a documentary.

My Perestroika is filled with a strikingly quiet yet compelling dramatic tension that completely captures you while you're watching it, and gives you a lot to reflect upon when the film is over. It is a fascinating study of how the social, political and economic evolution that's occurring somewhere in the world at all times effects those who experience it, and the film becomes an invitation for you to look at your own circumstances and evaluate the changes you've been through.

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Film Details:

  • Title: My Perestroika
  • Director: Robin Hessman
  • Premiere date: January 24, 2010 (Sundance Festival)
  • Theatrical release date: March 23, 2011 (limited)
  • DVD Release Date: May 15, 2012
  • Running time: 88 minutes
  • Parents Guide: Add content advisory for parents
  • Country: USA/UK/Russia
  • Language: Russian with English subtitles
  • Filming Location: Moscow, Russia
  • Production Company: Red Square Productions
  • DVD Release Company: Docuramafilms
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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