Screening of “My Perestroika” and talk with director Robin Hessman

  • on 25 Oct 2012
  • Gailor Auditorium
perestroika poster

Director Robin Hessman will screen her award-winning documentary My Perestroika at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, in Gailor Auditorium. A talk/Q&A with the director will follow the screening. All are invited to attend this very special campus event.

About the film:
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 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 verité footage, and vintage home movies, Hessman reveals a Russia rarely ever seen on film, where people are frank about their lives and forthcoming about their country. Engaging, funny, and inspiring, in My Perestroika politics is personal, honesty overshadows ideology, and history progresses one day and one life at a time.

My Perestroika won a 2012 George Foster Peabody Award. It was an Official Selection at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and has won awards at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Silverdocs Film Festival, Mendocino Film Festival and Milwaukee Film Festival.

Director Robin Hessman went to Leningrad in January 1991, at age 18, in the second semester of her freshman year of college. She lived in Moscow for eight years before returning to the U.S., going through the five-year directing program of VGIK (the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography) and making her first short films.

Hessman (left, photo credit Fred R. Conrad/New York Times) returned to live in the U.S. in the fall of 1999, and realized that although the Cold War had ended, information about contemporary Russia still had not permeated into U.S. culture: “People were either amazed that I had not been murdered by the mafia, or surprised that there were any problems left, now that Russia was a democratic country and no longer our arch enemy. Friends wanted an easy summary of what it was like, or how Russians had weathered the changes.”

Hessman’s Russian contemporaries had had completely Soviet childhoods in a world no one imagined would ever change. Then, as they were coming of age, society’s very foundations were shaken. Everything that they had assumed to be true was in question. As they graduated from college, the USSR collapsed. They were immigrants in the land of their birth, strangers in a society without guidelines as to how things should be.

In 2004, Hessman began working on My Perestroika full-time and soon returned to Russia. She says, “My hope has been to bring the audience into the homes, the kitchens, and the memories of these five childhood friends – to share the complexities of their experiences, their triumphs, their dreams, and their disillusionment.

“In a sense, this film is also about how politics and government—the headline events of history that happen during particular moments in our lifetimes—have profound effects on each of us. Although the political events that take place are really in the background of our private lives, they certainly influence us in ways we could never predict, and sometimes don’t even realize."

The event is sponsored by the University Lectures Committee and these departments and programs: Art and Art History, Asian Studies, Film Studies, History, International and Global Studies, and Russian.