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Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus (2013).

Great Curve Films

The ghost of the former Soviet Union looms large in the news lately, from protests against Ukraine's Russian-friendly President to the controversies around the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, as a showcase for waxing Russian nationalism.

On the cultural side, there has been the American visit from the out-of-jail punk protest band, Pussy Riot, and a new documentary, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, in theatres. Add to the list a one-night screening of Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus, an absorbing documentary by American filmmaker Madeleine Sackler.

It follows a tumultuous year in the life of the human rights-focused Belarus Free Theatre, operating illegally in what has been called "Europe's last dictatorship."

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Targeted by police after the 2010 election protests, eight members went into exile in the United States and England, where their work won an Obie off-Broadway theatre award and a major prize at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

At the film's end a legion of celebrity supporters, including the late Vaclav Havel, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Lou Reed, voice their support for the troupe's ongoing work, which, appropriately, draws inspiration from Polish and Czech experimental theatre of the 1960s.

(Feb. 16, 6:30 p.m., Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)

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Film critic

Liam Lacey is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More


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