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Refusenik

Potent but trudging
By NINA MACLAUGHLIN  |  May 28, 2008
2.5 2.5 Stars
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Refusenik

Laura Bialis’s thorough documentary takes its name from the term used to describe a Jew who was refused an exit visa from Russia, and it traces a 30-year crusade — starting with youth and rage and individuals and leading to a full-blown global human-rights campaign — to free Soviet Jews. The film features numerous interviews with refuseniks who’d been discriminated against in the Soviet Union, as well as with activists from around the world who worked on behalf of helping the Jews get out of Russia and into Israel and the US. But more than that, Bialis’s film is a portrait of the potential of grassroots activism, and the power of solidarity. People took on a superpower, their protests could not be ignored, and by 1992 1.5 million Jews had left the Soviet Union. As one activist says, “It’s the naïveté of young people that can change history.” The potency of the story is, however, dulled by Bialis’s overuse of interviews; the pace tends to trudge. Russian + Hebrew + English | 120 minutes | Kendall Square
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