Leading a film crew through empty streets in the tiny Belarusian town of Bobr, artist and resident resistance fighter Alexander Pushkin observes, “Everyone’s gone. They all hid when they saw us. They’re afraid that they and their loved ones will be punished… If a person appears in a film, he’s persecuted.” And so Pushkin is making his stand, using Andrzej Fidyk’s documentary to express his frustration at his countrymen’s complacency and promising to “explain the nature of a Belarusian.” He uses his art — sometimes painting, often performance — to remind his neighbors of their history, that Belarus did not begin just 60 years ago on “Victory Day,” the end of German occupation. In fact, he insists in his paintings and performances, Belarus has its own language and legacy, repressed by hundreds of years of Russian and Soviet occupation. He fights back as best he can: though Lukashenko banned the Belarusian flag and instituted “Muscovite symbols,” Pushkin insists on flying a red and white flag, the camera tracking him as he scrambles over his rooftop to replace a faded version with a new one. Entertaining and perplexing, the film shows Pushkin to be a decidedly complicated figure, at once energetic and committed, but also easily distracted, narcissistic, and frequently annoying. It’s hard to tell, however, whether he’s representative or anomalous, which makes the film seem very clever, or maybe elusive… making Pushkin’s case, along with and also in spite of his own efforts.
See PopMatters‘ review.