• My Perestroika tells the story of
five ordinary Russian people who
grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s on
the side of the Iron Curtain.
• “Perestroika” refers to the
“restructuring” of the Soviet
political and economic system
through reforms introduced in
1987 by the former Soviet leader
Warsaw Pact countries to the east of the Iron Curtain are
shaded in red. Google image.
Through the lives of these former schoolmates (all attended the
same school: School 57 Moscow), they lived from the existence of
the Soviet Union, to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990s, to
the change in the political climate in the post-Soviet Russia.
School 57 Moscow
In the film, the
memories and opinions
of these five Russian
people (a capitalist, a
former punk rocker,
married pair of history
teachers, and a single
mother who services
billiard tables) “create a
complex mosaic of
challenges, dreams, and
disillusionment of a
Firstly, the filmmaker
focuses on these five
people from the last
generation of the Soviet
Union and emphasizes the
drastic transformation of
the political system in
Russia during their
teenager years to the fall of
the USSR and economic
depression, leaving them
with no model to follow in
the new society.
• Secondly, the film portrays
the difference between the
adults (generation from the
Soviet Union) and children
(generation in democratic
Russia or Russia Federation).
• In other words, the children
in the Russian Federation
will never experience
control under the USSR.
However, in the perspective
of the adults, now their lives
are completely different
then when they lived in the
Thirdly, the film shares the personal experiences of the five Russians.
With this, the filmmaker takes the personal experiences to point out that although
the five Russians are skeptical about the collapse of the Soviet Union during their
youth and are allowing themselves to adjust to the democratic Russia, each of
them are still a little nostalgic for the past.
Therefore, in a broader sense, people coming out of the Soviet Union, at first, have
difficulty of adjusting to the new society and political system, and mentally, it is
nearly impossible to remove those memories of the USSR.
Think about how difficult it would be to
depend on “something” your whole childhood,
and suddenly, you realize that “something”
With this being said, how does Robin
Hessman effectively convey her
message or messages to his
The Five Russian People:
a. Borya and Lyuba - married and history teachers at School 57 Moscow
b. Andrei - a wealthy capitalist
c. Olga - a single mother who services billiard tables
d. Ruslan - a former punk rocker
School 57 Moscow and Protests in 1990s
a. Footage of School during USSR rule and after the collapse of the
b. Footage of movements in the 1990s such as the conflict between the
hardliners (people who were still supported for the old ways – Soviet
Union) versus people who believed in progressiveness.
• Borya is a history teacher at the
School 57 in Moscow (school he
attended as a youth during the
power of the Soviet Union).
• Borya, also Jewish, tried everything
possible to subvert or destroy the
political system. In the movie, he
mentioned that even wearing a USA
shirt made him considered an
outcast or someone unsupportive of
• After the fall of the USSR, Borya is
satisfied that his wife and him have
the freedom to express and choose
their own path.
• On the other hand, Lyuba was a
• In the film, Lyuba says she would
salute the television when the
Soviet hymn played, yet not fully
comprehend why she was doing it.
• After the fall of the USSR, her and
Borya resigned from leading or
participating in communist
• Also, Lyuba questioned, after
learning about the corruption of the
USSR, if Lenin was good or not?
What was true?
• During the power of the Soviet
Union, as a youth, Andrei wanted to
join the Communist Party. However,
although Andrei was considered the
“perfect soldier,” he was rejected
from the Party even though they
accepted people who were incapable
of work. He felt that this was unfair
and the system was a mess.
• After the collapse of the USSR,
Andrei was interested in the new
Russian capitalism and opened his
store of French men’s shirts.
• While Andrei thrives for Russian
capitalism, Olga who was known
to be the prettiest girl in school
is a single mother and has a low-
• Olga works for a company that
rents out billiard tables to bars
and other locations in Moscow.
• Although nothing can compare
to the existence of the Soviet
Union, Olga feels that there is
still an unfairness with the
distribution of pay between men
• Ruslan is a former punk rocker
who now plays the banjo for
money in the metro.
• During the communism to
capitalism phase, Ruslan would
play music that went against
• In the 1990s, music was one
way for people to channel
their frustration about NATO
and other communist
How effective the film was in
communicating its message?
What worked? What did not
work? Strengths? Weaknesses?
• Strong and a variety of
sources especially the five
Russian people (all had
different occupations or
their own story of being
behind the Iron Curtain.
Therefore, her message(s)
were easily grasped.
• The consistency of the film -
the events were in
chronological order, and it
was simple to follow.
• It not only provides content
of the events, but an
effective emotional reaction.
• Very good transitions from
one topic to the other.
• Truthfully, there is very
few flaws in this film.
• However, a very minor
weakness in the film is
some of the footage. I
felt taking footage of
the fish in the tank
(which happened three
times in the film) was
• What triggered the USSR to collapse? In the film, that information could
be helpful to know (how and why it collapsed).
• Although the five Russian people were good sources to use (especially
with the different occupations or position(s) in society), why did Hessman
not put someone who still supported the old ways (the Soviet Union)? It
would be interesting to see his or her reaction to the new Russia
Federation. However, it is possible that using someone who is pro-Soviet
would weaken her points.
• How did the USSR hide their primary plans from society? How did no one
or very few know of the initial intentions of the USSR?
• Next, the filmmaker directed this film primarily towards American
• I feel that this is the first time where I actually see the normal
everyday life in the Soviet Union.
• I think the filmmaker wanted people, specifically Americans, to see if
the portrayal of the Soviet Union was what they expected.
• Most importantly, I think Hessman wants Americans to change their
perspectives about the Soviet Union.
• In other words, after watching My Perestroika, the audience should
discuss and re-evaluate their previous views about the Soviet Union.
Mostly likely, people could try to break apart stereotypes of life in the
• Finally, the filmmaker possibly wanted the audience to not only
educate themselves about Russian life, but to also have an emotional
reaction to the victims of the Soviet Union.
Therefore, what is the role
of the individual in the
The main role of the
individual in the modern
– is to educate one another. This
film functions as a way to educate
Americans on Russian life and
– is to get both sides of the culture.
In order to achieve unity, people
should educate themselves on
both sides: the Russian life and
the American life and culture.
This would enable people to build
– is to not let higher authorities
intimidate you or instill fear in
you to not achieve your goal
My Perestroika gives viewers an insight
on five ordinary Russian people
who have been psychologically
affected by the collapse of the USSR in
1990s. With this collapse emerged a
new generation of technology, music,
new political systems, and so on.
• Similarly, in the late 1960s, there
was a quick transformation of
the American society.
• However, in the late 1960s,
Nixon made a change to limit
youth culture (music, art, etc.)
with repercussions in the
• The transformation of the
American society in the late
1960s is similar to the transition
from the Soviet Union to the
• However, the only difference is
in Russia, they had to
completely change their society
and to adopt new political and
economic systems. It was more
transformative in Russia.
In the end, after watching the film, it
not only gave information about the
the “daily life” in the Soviet Union and
the transformation from the Soviet Union
to the Russian Federation, but also people
should not always depend on the government.
People should have the freedom to choose their
own path which, for the majority, happened to
many Russians after the fall of the USSR.