Over the last fifty years, the former Soviet Union has experienced monumental social, cultural, economic, and political change, from the Cold War through Glasnost and Perestroika and its ultimate downfall as a world power. Making her feature-length directing debut, Robin Hessman gets up close and personal with five men and women who lived through those tumultuous years and share their fascinating experiences: Borya and Lyuba Meyerson, married history teachers who live with their son, Mark, in the apartment where Borya grew up; Ruslan Stupin, Borya’s childhood friend who was a punk rock star and is now passing on his counterculture values to his son, Nikita, who is worried about fitting in at school; Olga Durikova, a single mother also living in her childhoold apartment; and Andrei Yevgrafov, who has firmly embraced capitalism, owning a series of fancy men’s dress shirt stores. Combining archival footage and home movies with contemporary interviews, Hessman talks to the five protagonists about their early days as members of such Communist youth groups as the Octoberists, the Pioneers, and the Komsomol as well as how their lives changed as the Soviet leadership moved from Leonid Brezhnev to Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. They speak open and honestly about the Soviet Union in ways rarely seen in the West, resulting in an intimate portrait of a momentous time of upheaval that is often misunderstood and has never before been so personalized on-screen.
“In my senior year of high school, the Berlin Wall fell,” Hessman writes in her director’s statement. “I couldn’t even imagine what it was like to live through such incredible and rapid changes. I felt that I had to go to the USSR right away and experience it for myself. Too much was happening to sit and wait until the traditional college junior year abroad. So at age eighteen, in the second semester of my freshman year of college, I went to Leningrad.” Hessman, an American who ended up living in the USSR for most of the 1990s, will be at the IFC Center to talk about My Perestroika and her personal experiences tonight at the 8:20 screening, tomorrow at 6:20 and 8:20, and Friday and Saturday at 8:20.