email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on LinkedIn share on reddit pin on Pinterest


Review: Processes


- Andrei Kashperski's dark satire sketches the political landscape of today's Belarus: a country torn between utopian dictatorship, everyday absurdism, and silent reluctance

Review: Processes

Soviet repression, flawed as it was, did tend to cultivate a sense of humour that could appear even in dark moments, making people from all walks of life laugh. This unique attribute played a role in shaping a widely recognisable local culture of everyday absurdism, which permeated cinema as well – a notable tendency even during the cultural "Thaw" of the mid-1950s under Khrushchev's rule, and one that continued to challenge totalitarian regimes with alternative narratives up until today's post-Soviet era and in its territories. In this regard, Andrei Kashperski’s Processes, recently screened at the 24th edition of goEast – Festival of Central and Eastern European Film in competition, appears to be an eclectic mix of elements from this dark-comic tradition, reality TV aesthetics, and a critical observational approach. 

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Compiled from the four episodes of the mini-series, the feature film version of Processes makes the variable short parts work together in an attempt to capture the internal turbulence of Lukashenka's Belarus and its reflection on the human psyche on both sides of the totalitarian machine – the state-employed perpetrators and the perpetrated upon, whether conscious of their role or not. The four segments subsequently titled Fostering, Patriotic Enlightenment, Dreamed, and TV Programme follow closely how the authorities and their derivative propaganda penetrate private spaces: from work and home environments to children’s minds all the way to the dreams of devoted state functionaries. A special forces member keeps arrested protesters against Lukashenka’s government at home as prisons fill up, and innocent pupils are taken to KGB headquarters for military training and to be meticulously brainwashed, while civil servants from the ranks of the ruling elite experience a collective nightmare about the First Person every night. The culmination is the final episode featuring supermarket employee Zoya (an intense performance by Russian actress in exile Yana Trojanova) who desperately tries to track her son, mobilised for the war in Ukraine. However, authorities and a TV show forcibly persuade her that she never had a son, so the propaganda about Belarus as a guardian of peace between nations continues to spin.

Funded by Telewizja Polska, the producer behind Processes Belsat TV is the first independent television channel in Belarus, therefore the film appears to have been created to offer an opposition narrative to the pro-Kremlin local media. In its effort to be an expressly anti-propagandistic piece, it perhaps fails to avoid the trap of presenting allusions to totalitarian reality that are too explicit: satirical refrains like “Our KGB against LGBT” in a song at school and the blood-curdling practical lessons for kids on how to shoot at convicts are such hyperbolised versions of the state of things that it’s hard to take anything that happens on screen seriously. Moreover, the aesthetics of the Soviet lifestyle could puzzle viewers and make them think that these references are actually related to a bygone political regime. It is mostly DoP Daniil Hayou’s nervous camera, traversing spaces from all angles, and the frenetic soundtrack that suggest that the action takes place in the here and now; some practices from those times have simply never really disappeared.

Processes was produced by Belarus's Olena Domanska, Andrei Kashperski, Mikhail Zui, and Egor Efimov and coproduced by Poland’s Belsat TV - Fundacja Strefa Solidarności.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.

Privacy Policy