Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus

Poster for Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus

Winter 2015 Documentary series

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Madeleine Sackler

Screenplay by Madeleine Sackler

Starring Pavel Gorodnitski, Nikolai Khalezin, and Natalia Koliada

Rated NR · 1h 16m
USA / UK / Belarus
Belarusian, English, and Russian

View trailer

Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus

Creating provocative theatre carries great personal risks: emotional, financial and artistic. For the members of the Belarus Free Theatre, there are additional risks: censorship, imprisonment, and worse. Director Madeleine Sackler (The Lottery) goes behind the scenes with the acclaimed troupe of imaginative and subversive performers who, in a desolate country choked by censorship and repression, defy Europe’s last remaining dictatorship. When authorities forbid critical examinations of such topics as sexual orientation, alcoholism, suicide and politics, the Free Theatre responds by injecting these taboos into performances that are staged underground. And yet, because of the power of their message, they receive critical acclaim overseas.

Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus picks up the story in 2010 when the KGB is cracking down on dissenters, sixteen years after Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko takes power during the breakup of the Soviet Union. Now, as a dubious new presidential election looms, the KGB targets the Free Theatre’s founders Nicolai Khalezin, Natalia Koliada and Vladimir Shcherban, who, along with their colleagues, find themselves torn between fighting for their art and for their and their families’ safety.

Comprised of smuggled footage and uncensored interviews, Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus gives audiences a front row seat to a resistance movement as it unfolds both on the stage and in the streets. As the members of the Free Theatre confront the choice of either repression at home or exile in the US and the UK, this film reconfirms our belief that the power of art and hope can indeed change the world.

“The initial shock of Stackler’s film is that these events are happening on the edge of modern Europe, not in Iran or North Korea. Conversely, the quaintly nostalgic notion that a tiny group of artists staging plays in cramped back rooms can still threaten governments is oddly heart-warming. Clear parallels with Pussy Riot jump out from several scenes… Though this is the unashamedly partisan work of a director embedded with her subjects, it is also an admirable document of courage and resistance—not just by the Free Theater members but the filmmakers too, who risked their safety in filming Lukashenko’s hired thugs and in smuggling footage out of Belarus. This is clearly a real-life drama whose final act has yet to be written.” (Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter)