Documentary Production and Distribution News
"My Perestroika" by Robin Hessman
My Perestroika follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times – from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia.
At the center of the film is a family.
Borya and Lyuba are married and have a son, Mark. They are both history teachers at a Moscow school. As we are drawn into the fabric of their everyday lives, we hear stories of two very different Soviet childhoods: Lyuba was a conformist who would salute the TV when the Soviet hymn played, while Borya, living with the consequences of being Jewish, preferred to subvert the system whenever possible.
Their childhood classmates provide their own perspectives.
Andrei has thrived in the new Russian capitalism and has just opened his 17th store of expensive French men’s shirts.
Olga, the prettiest girl in the class, is a single mother and works for a company that rents out billiard tables to bars and clubs all over Moscow.
Ruslan was a famous Russian punk rock musician who now plays the banjo in the metro for money.
At first glance, in today’s Russia, everything is different from the lives they would have lived in the USSR. They are the invisible “ordinary” people of Moscow – raising their own children in a world they couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams.
But have those changes ultimately proved to be only superficial?
In this film, there are no “talking head” historians, no expert witnesses, no omniscient narrator telling viewers how to interpret events. Instead, Borya, Lyuba, Andrei, Olga and Ruslan share their personal stories. They were the last generation of Soviet children brought up behind the Iron Curtain. They take us on a journey through their Soviet childhoods, their youth during the country’s huge changes of Perestroika, and let us into their present-day lives.
The film interweaves their contemporary world with rare home movie footage from the 1970s and ‘80s in the USSR, along with official Soviet propaganda films that surrounded them at the time. Their memories and opinions sometimes complement each other and sometimes contradict each other, but together they paint a complex picture of the challenges, dreams, and disillusionment of this generation in Moscow today.
About the Filmmaker
Robin Hessman graduated from Brown University with a dual degree in Russian and Film. She received her graduate degree in film directing from the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow (with a “red diploma” of honors). She received an Academy Award® in 1994 – with co-director James Longley – for their student film, Portrait of Boy with Dog. During her eight years living in Russia, Robin worked for the Children’s Television Workshop as the on-site producer of Ulitsa Sezam, the original Russian-language Sesame Street.
In the US, Robin co-produced the documentary Tupperware!, which received the Peabody Award in 2005. Robin also co-produced the PBS biography of Julia Child, Julia! America’s Favorite Chef. In 2004, she founded Red Square Productions and was granted the position of Filmmaker in Residence at Boston’s PBS affiliate, WGBH, to develop My Perestroika. The project received the Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant at the Full Frame Festival for a work-in-progress. In 2008 Robin was a MacDowell Colony Fellow.
Her feature-length documentary directing debut, My Perestroika, premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival as part of the US Documentary competition and was screened in New York as part of the prestigious film series, New Directors/New Films, curated by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It won the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award at the Full Frame Festival in April 2010 and a Special Jury Award at Silverdocs in June 2010. My Perestroika will be broadcast on PBS on the independent series POV in their 2011 season and is a co-production of Red Square Productions, Bungalow Town Productions and ITVS International. The film has been supported by the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Ford Foundation, Chicken and Egg Pictures, the LEF Moving Image Fund, YLE Finland, and others.
Robin is also an Associate of Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian Studies and is a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Since 2006, Robin has served as the Director of documentary programming for Amfest, the American Film Festival in Moscow.
Visit the "My Perestroika" official movie website for updates and upcoming screenings.