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My Perestroika

4.2 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Product Description

This DVD is for home use only and not for use in educational settings.

When the USSR broke apart in 1991, a generation of young people faced a new realm of possibilities. An intimate epic about the extraordinary lives of this last Soviet generation, Robin Hessman's feature documentary debut tells the stories of five Moscow schoolmates who were brought up behind the Iron Curtain, witnessed the joy and confusion of glasnost, and reached adulthood right as the world changed around them. Through candid first-person testimony, revealing footage and vintage home movies, Hessman, who spent many years living in Moscow, reveals a Russia rarely seen on film, where people are frank about their lives and forthcoming about their country. Engaging, funny and positively inspiring, MY PERESTROIKA shows that politics are personal, honesty overshadows ideology and history progresses one day, one life at a time.

This New York Times Critics Pick premiered at Sundance Film Festival2010, and went on to win the Filmmaker Award at Full Frame Film Festival and the Special Jury Award at Silverdocs.

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Childhood nostalgia is universal, even if you were raised under Communist rule. "The sun was brighter, the grass was greener, the sky was bluer, and everything somehow seemed better," reflects one of the subjects in this award-winning documentary, which profiles five ordinary Russian thirtysomethings who came of age during a time of epochal upheaval, the fall of the Soviet Union. American director Robin Hessman, who lived for eight years in Moscow, where she produced the Russian incarnation of Sesame Street, chose her subjects well: married schoolteachers, a single mother (once "the prettiest girl in class"), a successful clothing entrepreneur, and, perhaps most surprising, a former punk rocker. Intimate and candid interviews topple western perceptions of Russians that were reinforced by footage of spectacular rallies in which propaganda-spouting children ("We live in the land of happy childhood") marched in step. These Russians have an equally skewed image of westerners that was shaped by media images of American crime (in America, one offers, "everything is measured in money"). You don't have to be Russian or possess a degree in Russian history to be compelled by My Perestroika. Hopes, dreams, and disillusionment are universal, too. --Donald Liebenson

Product Details

  • Actors: Various
  • Directors: Robin Hessman
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: May 15, 2012
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B006QVRX52
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,178 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I'm a naturalized American who grew up in Russia. I'm delighted that this film is available to enjoy for Americans interested in Russia and the history of the Soviet Union. It's also could be interesting for Russians themselves. The film has flair and many insights and is definitely worth watching. I do have some qualms. Towards the end I felt the film was losing its message and was beginning to pander to the U.S. stereotypes of Russia: the church, the elections, nationalism, Putin, etc.

a] My first qualm is this: Ms. Robin Hessman -- obviously a very talented director -- doesn't challenge her Russians. She chose to be outside the film. She is an invisible presence -- only a camera. We only see and hear the Muscovites who appear to be rambling on and on and on. Ergo, when the characters say something silly or illogical there is no one to push back and ask probing questions.

b] I was struck by excessive self-pitying of my former compatriots. The position in a nutshell is this: "When we were young we believed the official ideology. Alas, this ideology was dumb. Today we struggle with the lack of ideals." For me, it's hard to take it seriously. The majority of Russians knew that the official ideology was a load of garbage, but we were willing to put up with it. This is because like so often in Russia the alternative is anarchy -- a kind of Hobbesian "state of nature". This is precisely what happened in Russia after 1991. Here are the keys to understanding of almost universal deep dislike of Gorbachev by the ordinary Russians: he unleashed the forces of chaos he couldn't control.

c] The U.S. and Russia.
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Robin Hessman's "My Perestroika" is an absolutely fascinating collection of personal accounts from five individuals who lived through various stages of Russian history. While this documentary does offer crucial insight about the changing political climate, it is perhaps most effective if you have a prior experience with the topic as a reference point. I'm not sure how much you'd take away if you knew nothing about the subject as this is not meant to be a comprehensive lesson about life before and after the dismantling of the Iron Curtain. While I certainly don't consider myself an expert on International politics, I lived through this era and am familiar with Russia's evolution from its days within the USSR to its modern-day incarnation. "My Perestroika" is also particularly interesting to me as I am of the same age group as the individuals that agreed to act as interviewees for the documentary. And in many ways, I see their world in parallel with my own.

The film takes five former classmates from Moscow who are approaching their fortieth year. They were raised in an era of pure Communism and each blindly worked to become upright Soviet citizens fully accepting the dogma of their party. It's all they knew, the ritual, and it was not something that was questioned. This period is showcased through archival footage as well as old news stories and personal photographs. Upon their college years, the country entered a period of upheaval with enormous social and political changes--new freedoms interspersed with new economic challenges. As each navigated their way (quite differently) within the new Russia, they were swept up in many changes which led to the current and continuing reign of Vladimir Putin.
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My Perestroika takes a great look at the last generation to come up, during the tail end of the Soviet Union's claw like grip on nations, like Russia, and the rest. This takes a candid look at the surreal, delusional world the Soviet youth were immersed in -one where patriotism did not correlate with reality, children were made to speak in patriotic lingo, at all times, and conduct themselves as Real People. Citizens were stripped of all individuality to be brainwashed. This was was something that the subjects challenged, as did thousands like them. The subjects, here, are interviewed about their youths, their lives, now, and and those interviews are juxtaposed with excellent footage from their childhoods (black and white reels contrasting their lives of thirty years ago with their contemporary day-to-day experience). Subjects include two school teachers, a punk rocker, a clothing salesman and a billiard sales rep.

The interviews are honest, humorous, insightful and haunting. To compare our world in the United States (in the mid 1960s to 1980s) with USSR is completely like comparing watermelons to apples. The propaganda we were fed of the fear of Communism, USSR's intentions with our nation, and others, versus what they were taught to believe are stark contrasts. It truly is amazing what politics and spin doctors do to divide people in our world - before and now. What a great look at a culture many of us may not know much about.
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Disclaimer: I know (and admire) Hessman, the American film maker.
This is a very engaging and revealing documentary about the human side of Russian's transition from its Soviet past to a market-based "democracy with Russian characteristics." Through the interwoven footage of home movies, the viewer gets a good sense of how life felt to ordinary Russians on both sides of the transition. Unlike Mikhalkov's "Anna", which traces just one girl and her family through this period, MP provides a more balanced view of a range of outlooks. Again, unlike Mikhalkov, who is rarely subtle in revealing himself, in this film Hessman allows the figures to present a wide range of commentary, with no sense that she has a particular axe to grind.
Highly recommended for any students of Russia, Russian or the Soviet Union, or just anyone curious about societies in transition. The fact that the presentation is not linear, either in time or in the sequencing of segments of its Russian protagonists, makes this a bit more challenging, but definitely more engaging than many documentaries.
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