Dangerous Acts

Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus

Published: March 18, 2017

Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus is a 2014 documentary about the Belarusian Free Theatre, an underground theater and political opposition group in Belarus. It was produced by HBO but is partly in Belarusian.

The theater has been operating since 2005. It uses art as a means of resistance, putting on plays that highlight the authoritarian nature of Belarusian politics and that discuss topics that are usually ignored in mainstream Belarusian society. The plays are put on in private apartments and are not advertised; many of its actors and members have been arrested for political activity, and several have had to flee Belarus. The theater is widely supported by American and European organizations and theater figures.

The film takes place around 2010, during the rigged reelection of Aleksandr Lukashenka, who has been in power since 1994. It tells the story of the theater and of contemporaneous events in Belarusian politics. It consists of both scenes shot of the theater’s activities and of covertly filmed protests—including scenes of beatings and mass arrests—and interviews with the theater’s members. As the film’s official site notes, “Comprised of smuggled footage, this film provides a front-row seat to a resistance movement as it unfolds both on the stage and in the streets.”

The film has been screened at film festivals around the world, and won the 2014 OneWorld festival in Brussels, which celebrates films about human rights. Some critics praised in particular the excerpts from the theater performances showed in the film; most mentioned how clearly the film demonstrates both the power of the arts in repressive regimes, and the courage of those who are participating in Belarus’s resistance.

Director: Madeleine Sackler
Stars/interviewees: Pavel Gorodnitski, Nikolay Khalezin, Natalya Kolyada, Tatyana Mikhailovna Kalyada, Andrey Andreevich Kalyada
Production company: HBO Documentary Films

Official trailer:


Dangerous Acts

About the author

Julie Hersh

Julie studied Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk and before that, Bishkek, with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

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