Reading the headline about the Ryanair flight intercepted to Belarus, a story straight from a Cold War novel, suddenly the world was back in an East versus West game of high stakes chest. President Alexander Lukashenko has been in power for almost 3 decades with no signs of exiting the stage. After the the 2020 election demonstrators took to the street demanding accountability and change.
While interviewing Director Aliaksei Paluyan about his film COURAGE,a documentary on thethe current Belarus political sitaution, he said something that hit me, “Minsk is equal flying distance from Berlin as Paris.”
The exclusive interview with Aliaksei.
After the Roman Protasevich hijacking, do you feel safe?
It would be a lie If I said I feel safe, There is a feeling of fear by all of Lukashenko’s critics. I think more about safety.
I’ve not lost control, but I have held to my goal of telling the truth.
A Lost Moment
Were you expecting a “Ceausecu Moment” during the demonstrations?
Yes. No one wanted violence. If there is a civil war, the protesters don’t have guns. This is a movement of moral choice. Our choices were taken away from us. The country does not want to be a geopolitical chess piece between the east and the west. Belarus’s destiny must be decided by us not in foreign capitals.
There is a wrenching scene, standing outside the prison, is this a tradition in Belarus?
There are 350.000 detainees in the country. Not a tradition! A tragedy! This was the hardest scene to shoot. How to understand the emotion? Women reading a list of the disappeared. The nightmare of waiting for loved ones outside a prison, while inside, people are tortured. The crowd applauses when detainees are released.
You can see sense of loss in the guard’s eyes, especially the young ones. People on both sides are broken.
When Dzianis speaks about being abused in prison in the 90’s. It left me in doubt concerning hope. Oppression has been handed down, is this right?
It was important to bring this fact to the audience. Lukashenko has been power since 1994. I used archival footage to show how long this has been going on. He is not a dictator, he is a tyrant abusing his own country, declaring war on his people. Many turned a blind’s eye what was happening.
Are you political?
I can’t say I’m political. It is impossible not say anything cause the of critical situation. The trauma is huge.
The wife, Maryna, was the most pragmatic of the characters. She says, “What’s Next?”
She’s a mother.
What about the play and the actors, what happened?
All the performers were detained for a while. They knew the possible consequences. That is the courage. Keep fighting, overcoming the fear and hopeless.
Pavel left for Kiev. The Director of Photography is still in Belarus. After the Ryanair event, Myrna left on the last flight out. Denis was blackballed. He can not work anywhere.
Courage was screened in May with English subtitles
Running Time: 90 minutes