Content Note: police violence
In 2006, Belarus had presidential elections, re-confirming Alexander Lukashenko as the president. But the election turned out to be fraudulent and protestors took to Minsk’s main square. Khashchvatskiy details the events leading up the election and how the protestors were “handled” by police – including mass arrests and violence – to silence dissidence.
With current events in Belarus, Ploshcha is an incredibly topical documentary still. It’s irreverent tone also makes it more fun than I thought possible, given the content. I guess it’s an instance of gallows humor, but it works.
The most striking thing about the film is how you can almost pass it off as a 2020 documentary. Even in 2006, and probably before that, people were very well aware of Lukashenko being a dictator and rigging the election(s). They were also protesting back then, but their protests were struck down with violence.
In a sense, things did progress with the 2020 election: adapting their protest strategy meant that people could protest much longer this year. In fact, they are still on-going. What hasn’t changed is the violent response to the protests and the torture and abuse people face for daring to call for proper elections.
Khashchevatskiy is obviously trying to take away some of Lukashenko’s power by ridiculing him. His omnipresent narration pretends at reverence for the president, but is obviously sarcastic to its core. This way the film has a lot of energy and a quick pace and is acutally funny, despite the very serious topic.
The events surrounding the protests on the square are complemented by a visit to a small village where people both complain about the state of things and love Lukashenko, thus capturing how things may look like for people outside of Minsk – and how they, with a little education, can easily change their minds as well.
It’s an interesting look at a dictatorship that is so brazen, it seems amazing that it can still exist. But here we are.
Summarizing: a good watch.