‘Long Knives Night/ Reporting From the Rabbit Hutch’


Ascuffed-knuckle preamble to next week’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival, these two featurette docs by Belarusan filmmaker Victor Dashuk open a window on an atrocious reality American media channels don’t bother to report—social life in Belarus after the seizure of power by classic-style dictator Alexander Lukashenko. The second and third parts of a trilogy that began with Between Satan and God (1997), the two films here are traditionally structured docs, often overcome with articulate and poetic narration, jumping ugly all over Lukashenko’s astonishing legacy of Stalinist abuses: kidnappings and disappearances (of activists, journalists, and ministry officials), public violence, false arrests, liquidated institutions. Apparently, Lukashenko is faithful to the totalitarian paradigm—no effort has been made to persuade or even lie to the populace, and iron-heel thuggery rules the day. Which is perhaps why Dashuk, who has been persecuted and harassed for years, time and again directs his own outrage toward the people themselves—they may riot wildly (the footage makes Peruvian protesters look polite), but they keep permitting power-grabs “like cattle led to the slaughterhouse.” Long Knives Night is seriously marred by an unnecessary introduction in which teen Satanists crucify a large dog—is this supposed to make us question “evil”?—but the double bill is otherwise sharp, instructive, and mad as hell.