Belarus, 2012, 70'
Autapartret u naruchnikah
Formerly a soldier in the Afghan war, 'Ales' Pushkin is a Belarusian nationalist who opposes the Soviet-style rule of president Lukashenko while sharing a name with Russia’s national poet. He looks like a famished Depardieu dressed in traditional embroidered Belarusian shirts, and is as far as possible from anybody’s mental image of a ‘textbook’ activist. Trained as a painter, he earns his living by restoring frescoes in rural churches, but he considers himself a performance artist who specializes in mock celebrations of the anniversary of the Belarusian National Republic. As he lives in a country without a contemporary art gallery able to offer some legitimacy to his art, his performances end invariably with his arrest. Unlike other artists who look West for 'canonical' radical performance art, Pushkin finds his inspiration in the holy fools of early Christianity. Even so, the dwellers of Bobr, the village where he lives, suspect that he is paid lumps of money to spy for the Americans.
Dashuk's film sketches one of the most paradoxical characters of this year's program and points to the fact that political activism can manifest outside the space defined by existing international models of nonviolent protest. On another level, the fractured aesthetic of his film - which combines reportage with poetical and essayistic elements - testifies itself to a set of filmic references which are distinct from the well-rounded argumentation employed by most political documentaries produced in Western Europe today. You don't have to agree with Pushkin and you don’t even have to find this documentary 'good': starting to question what is – to you - 'acceptable' activism (or 'acceptable' documentary form) may be enough to start with.
13 March, 18:00, Cinema Union
15 March, 16:00, Cinemateca Eforie
Nomination for Best Television Documentary, Moscow, Russia, 2012
IDFA International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2012