Using personal and professional perspectives, Filmmaker Alexander Mihalkovich and Filmmaker/Journalist Hanna Badziaka underscore the causes and consequences of the decades-old “tradition” of violent bullying, torture and murder as a means of control over Belarusian military conscripts.
When young Nikita reports for compulsory military duty in 2020, he enters a generations-old tradition that hides a deadly secret in post-Soviet Belarus: dedovshchina, the practice of violent abuse and bullying that supposedly turns boys into men but which has instead created generational trauma deeply embedded in the country’s present-day culture and identity.
Svetlana lives with this traumatic reality every day– her son was found hanged on base two years earlier as a result of dedovshchina, and a veil of secrecy continues to conceal his murderers. In this country where sons are disposable, and the instruments of control are out of hand, mothers emerge as inexhaustible fighters confronting the status quo. Nikita and Svetlana’s stories also frame a rage in the streets against the state-led violence, rooted in dedovshchina, that has become the very mechanism of fear the government uses to control its populace.
Badziaka and Mihalkovich capture a snapshot of a troubled, modern-day Belarus through the real-life experiences of mothers and new conscripts, overlaid with the raw voices of those who have gone before them, taken from their private letters home.
Cast: Svetlana, Nikita
Director: Alexander Mihalkovich,Hanna Badziaka
Writer: Alexander Mihalkovich, Hanna Badziaka
Producers: Mario Adamson, Ashley Smith, Alexander Mihalkovich
Co-Producers: Anita Norfolk
Distributor: Lucky Dogs
Sales Agent: Lightdox
Year of production: 2023
Length: 90 min
Country of origin: Sweden, Ukraine, Norway
The Swedish Film Institute
Western Norway Film Center
Fritt Ord Foundation
IDFA Bertha Fund
Renovabis Research Grant
Viewfinder Masters Program
International Media Support
Docs Up Fund
Fund for Belarus Democracy - German Marshall Fund
Normandy for Peace and Région Normandie
In co-production with:
One World International Human Rigths Documentary Film Festival