In the Republic of Belarus, Europe’s last remaining unreconstructed Communist dictatorship, the Belarus Free Theatre risks censorship, imprisonment and worse to stage their provocative and subversive plays in secret performances at home and to critical acclaim abroad. Director Madeleine Sackler goes behind the scenes with this group of gutsy performers as they brave a renewed government crackdown on dissenters in 2010.

TIFF Docs

Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus

Madeleine Sackler

Creating provocative theatre carries risks: emotional, financial, and artistic. For the Belarus Free Theatre, there are additional risks of censorship, imprisonment, and worse. In Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus, director Madeleine Sackler goes behind the scenes with the troupe of gutsy performers who defy Europe's last remaining dictatorship.

In the Republic of Belarus, the authorities forbid theatrical treatment of topics such as sexual minorities, alcoholism, suicide, and politics. The Free Theatre responds by injecting these taboos into performances that are staged secretly in Belarus and to critical acclaim overseas. Using meagre props and resources, their work is rich in imagination and subversion. After a visit to Minsk, where the troupe is based, British playwright Tom Stoppard said, "I wish all my plays would be performed by a theatre like this."

Dangerous Acts picks up the story in 2010, as the KGB of Belarus is cracking down on dissenters. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Alexander Lukashenko took power in Belarus' 1994 presidential election — and never let go. Now, as a dubious new presidential election takes place, the KGB targets Free Theatre founders Nikolai Khalezin and Natalia Koliada, along with their colleagues. Their plight is reminiscent of Eastern European writers and artists during the Cold War who had to choose between repression at home and disconnection in exile. What's changed in the twenty-first century is the power of documentary crews to capture what's happening. In Sackler's film we get a front-row seat to a resistance movement full of vitality, both on the stage and in the streets. As one Free Theatre member says, "Work and laughter are what will save us."

THOM POWERS

Screenings

Sun Sep 08

TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Regular
12:15pm
Mon Sep 09

Scotiabank 9

Industry
9:30am
Mon Sep 09

Scotiabank 9

Regular
4:45pm
Thu Sep 12

Scotiabank 9

Industry
3:00pm
Sun Sep 15

Scotiabank 13

Regular
7:00pm