RKS Films: “Courage”: Political Repression in Belarus

The opening 90 seconds of this 2021 documentary brilliantly depicts the courage of Belarusians demonstrating against the dictatorship of their President Lukashenko who first came to power in the 1994 election. In 1996 a referendum stripped away key powers from the Belarusian Parliament. All elections after that point have been seen as rigged by much of the world except, not surprisingly by Vladimir Putin’s Russia where democracy has been slipping away quickly. After 2001’s presidential election won by Lukashenko two key members of the opposition disappeared probably with great prejudice as they were never seen again.

Belarus was once part of the USSR until that empire collapsed and Lukashenko seems to have learnt the Stalinist playbook well!

Why the title “Courage”? Considering the disappearances, executions, beatings, torture, rapes and other gifts of the Lukashenko regime to the population of Belarus being a protestor is a dangerous if not deadly game. The security forces wade into the crowds beating them, spraying them with water cannons and tear gas. In some instances, live ammunition has been used. If you are arrested you could be beaten, raped, humiliated and sometimes executed.

We follow the lives of some actors from a fringe theatre group in Minsk. Their stories expose the extent of the repression where one says the country has moved from dictatorship to tyranny. They take it for granted they will be arrested. Some have already been arrested and beaten in prison. Some are on the verge of arming themselves for protection. We all know from history that too much repression and intimidation can result in civil war and Belarus seems very close to that point. Canada recently announced a third round of sanctions against Belarus and the United States is on the same page with Canada imposing sanctions on Belarus. Imagine a Belarusian “Mass Gathering Law”.

The members of this Free Theatre are on a blacklist with many plays being censored as “Satanism”. One says now is not the time for theatre in Belarus but instead they should directly challenge the regime.

The closing of the documentary is a scene from a play about the 1999 disappearance of Anatoliy Karsovsky a businessman who had assisted Belarusian democratic forces. Never seen again it would appear he was a victim of an execution.

Very haunting and absolutely perfect Belarusian music at the beginning and ending of the film. The film is both tragic and inspiring.

What we take for granted in Canada as our democratic right is a dream of the courageous in Belarus. You can see the trailer here for this 90-minute German/Belarusian film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7OIMQrjJAs

The film was written and directed by Aliaksei Paluyan and you can expect to see it on the festival circuit or your favourite “indie” cinema.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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