While our eyes were aimed at the troubles in the Middle East, Europe’s last dictator ensured he remained in power by using unlawful imprisonment, violence and even murder. We didn’t see the victims, we didn’t hear them – their story remained untold. That is, up to now, when a new documentary uncovers what life is like in one of Europe’s most under-reported places; Belarus.
When we think about torture it is always a far away thing, it never happens here, in civilized Europe. Yet while we are enjoying the luxury of a democracy the people in Belarus are living their lives in fear, in a country ruled by a man who sees Hitler as his idol. Accused of torture, state-sponsored murder and kidnapping his potential opponents, Aleksander Lukashenko, President of Belarus, managed to – once again – rigg the elections in 2010 and remain in power. Now, Europe’s Last Dictator, a gripping documentary by Guerilla Pictures, aims to tell the stories of those who suffered at his hands.
By following the family, friends and supporters of opposition leaders brave enough to oppose the dictator we get a clear picture of the shockingly violent repression they had to endure in the run up, and even after, the latest elections – when Lukashenko was declared the winner even before the results were in.
Narrated by none other than actress and activist Joanna Lumley, the documentary introduces us to people like Irina Bogdanova, the sister of imprisoned presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, and his wife, Iryna Khalip, journalist for Russian Novaya Gazeta, who herself spent time in prison. The two lead us through the film, their questions, their anger. It is no longer a matter of fighting for the freedom of their husband and brother, it is fighting for the freedom of their country.
Soft spoken accounts of the events that changed their lives forever will sent chills down your spine and create feelings of powerlessness and sadness. Questions arise. How can we allow one of our neighbours to suppress its people in a way we condemn in the Middle East? Why are we allowing this pain and suffering to go on?
Powerful and strong, Europe’s Last Dictator – which had to be shot mostly in secret – accomplishes that what it set out to do; telling us important and very under-reported stories that present us with a clear picture of Lukashenko’s true character and the suffering his dictatorship brings to his people.
Europe’s Last Dictator will be screening as part of the London Independent Film Festival on Sunday 15 April 7.15pm at the Shortwave cinema in Bermondsey and on 30 April 7pm at the Frontline Club where it will be followed by a panel discussion with directors Mathew Charles and Juan Passarelli.