Solidifying Yury Khashchavatski's position as Minsk's Michael Moore, "Kalinovski Square" is a harrowing yet acerbic docu on the contentious March 2006 re-election of Belarusian strongman President Alexander Lukashenko and the trampling of human rights in its wake.

Solidifying Yury Khashchavatski’s position as Minsk’s Michael Moore, “Kalinovski Square” is a harrowing yet acerbic docu on the contentious March 2006 re-election of Belarusian strongman President Alexander Lukashenko and the trampling of human rights in its wake. As absorbing for its righteously furious tone as for its sad portrayal of governmental corruption, pic will be of great interest to politically aware fests and reps a solid smallscreen item.

Described even by diplomats as “Europe’s last dictator,” Lukashenko has been tightening his repressive grip since first ascending to the presidency in 1994. Helmer’s been calling him out for nearly that long, having made the withering “An Ordinary President” in 1996 and been hospitalized for his troubles after a severe beating by state thugs.

New pic assembles official footage and shots grabbed clandestinely by “those who have to stay anonymous,” according to the credits, to show police brutality and the arrest of those protesting the election in the frigid Minsk downtown area. Populace assembled in Minsk’s October Square, which was informally renamed on the occasion for 19th-century martyred patriot Kastus Kalinowski.

Khaschavatski’s chief witness of the event is a young university coed known only as Dasha. Fresh out of detention and visibly trembling as she cradles a warm drink at 5 a.m., she tells her view of what happened as protestors faced off with police.

Events are punctuated by news footage of the president in action, accompanied by helmer’s v.o., which transforms low despotism into high comedy.

Tech credits do nothing to betray the DIY nature of the production. In a kind of viral Samizdat, helmer has apparently made the pic available for free download at various Internet sites and via YouTube.

Original Belarusian title means “square.”

Kalinovski Square

Estonia

Production

An Estonian Film Film Foundation, Baltic Film Production presentation of a Baltic Film Production production. (International sales: Deckert Distribution, Leipzig, Germany.) Produced by Marianna Kaat. Directed by Yury Khashchavatski. Screenplay, Khashchavatski, Yevgeni Budinas, Sergey Isakov.

Crew

Camera (color, DigiBeta), Vladimir Petrov, Sergey Gelbach, Dima Zavadski; editors, Dmitri Pivovarov, Kaspar Kallas; sound, Vasily Shitikov, Tiina Andreas; assistant director, Isakov. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, June 16, 2008. (In Silverdocs Film Festival, Silver Spring, Md. -- Silver Spectrum.) Running time: 73 MIN.

With

Alexander Lukashenko, Dasha. (Belarusian, Russian dialogue)
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