Highlight: POV: Belarusian Waltz


Russian imperial might reared its head this past week to international condemnation. Russian troops occupied the South Ossetia region of Georgia and used the incursion to try bombarding the independent democracy into submission. Georgia fought back.

The more typical effect of Russian imperialism can be seen in this portrait of postmodern provocateur Alexander Pushkin. The performance artist from Belarus is a singular voice of dissent in the country. None of Pushkin's neighbours in the village of Bobr want to be caught on film for fear of repercussions from dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Pushkin, however, is determined to get people talking with acts of activism, including a bit of street theatre called A Wheelbarrow of Dung for President Lukashenko, performed in the capital of Minsk.

Still, most citizens resist Pushkin's attempts to engage them with his stunts. Their acquiescence is surreally on display on Victory Day. All of Bobr turns out to pay its respects at a local monument on the 60th anniversary of liberation from German occupation. A veteran smartly dressed in uniform approaches and salutes, before tumbling backward and reeling to a nearby bench. He's falling-down drunk. But for the circumstance, his slow-motion clumsiness is Clouseau-funny. No one takes any notice. The communal blindness is astonishing: Sublimating pain with vodka is the norm.

Belarusian Waltz is an unvarnished depiction of the comedy of technocracy and the tragedy of complicity. As Lukashenko leads and the people follow, Pushkin darts jester-like to interrupt the dangerous dance.



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