My Perestroika

Five former childhood classmates paint a complex picture of the dreams and disillusionment of those raised behind the Iron Curtain.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
87 mins
Remote video URL


My Perestroika follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times—from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia. Together, these childhood classmates paint a complex picture of the dreams and disillusionment of those raised behind the Iron Curtain.

Featured review

Enthralling…. My Perestroika gives you a privileged sense of learning the history of a place not from a book but from the people who lived it…. Astoundingly timely. (New York Times Critics' Pick)
Stephen Holden
New York Times


When the USSR broke apart in 1991, a generation of young people faced a new realm of possibilities. An intimate epic about the extraordinary lives of this last Soviet generation, Robin Hessman’s feature documentary tells the stories of five Moscow schoolmates who were brought up behind the Iron Curtain, witnessed the joy and confusion of Glasnost, and reached adulthood just as the world changed around them. Through candid first-person testimony, revealing verité footage, and vintage home movies from her subjects, Hessman, who spent many years living in Moscow, reveals a Russia rarely ever seen on film, where people are frank about their lives and forthcoming about their country. Engaging, funny, and positively inspiring, in My Perestroika politics is personal, honesty overshadows ideology, and history progresses one day, one life at a time.


It takes hardly a minute—the briefest of opening scenes—to recognize the powers of My Perestroika, a work of such exhilarating depth and humor as to make it seem impossible at times to appreciate, fully, the scope of the history it manages to encompass along the way.
Dorothy Rabinowitz
The Wall Street Journal
This film is essential to understanding Russia as it was, is and might become, but it also provides fresh perspectives to Western societies worth serious discussion. For making Russia's historic economic and political shift both personal and poignant, My Perestroika receives a Peabody Award.
Peabody Award Jury 2012
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the effort to create a stable post-communist Russian society are treated adroitly by the filmmaker Robin Hessman in My Perestroika, an engaging and insightful documentary... Hessman deftly captures the dashing of naïve hopes that full-fledged democracy would inevitably rise from the ashes of the Soviet state. Offering a fascinating look at the impact of drastic political change on people's lives, this is highly recommended.
F. Swietek
Video Librarian
This is a beautiful film, visually and emotionally. Through the lives of five ordinary Muscovites we see one of the most dramatic events of recent history—the end of the Soviet Union. By juxtaposing materials from two epochs—the Soviet past and the post-Soviet present—the film constructs a complex and poetic narrative that avoids the usual cold war stereotypes about the Soviet 'other.' Made by a director with a keen ethnographic eye, this film will be of great use to college professors.
Alexei Yurchak
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
My Perestroika is exactly the sort of film I want to teach late-Soviet and post-Soviet history with…. What a perfect text for stimulating our own conversations in the classroom.
Mark D. Steinberg
History Department, University of Illinois
The intimately personal stories of five schoolmates in My Perestroika not only touch every student, but with the help of this artistic documentary, they also better understand the seismic changes that the fall of the Soviet Union produced in politics and economics. The film's lyrical and at times ironic tone elucidates the many post-Soviet contradictions that reverberate in everyday practices and high-stakes politics.
Katalin Fabian
Department of Government and Law, Lafayette College
…a documentary so good at breaking the rules of historical docs that it makes you question why anyone ever follows them.
Mary Anderson Casavant
Filmmaker Magazine

Awards and Screenings

George Foster Peabody Award, 2012
Sundance Film Festival, US Documentary Competition – Nominated for Grand Jury Prize
PBS Premiere on POV
New Directors/New FIlms at MoMA and Lincoln Center, NYC
Filmmaker Award from the Center for Documentary Studies
Special Jury Prize – Silverdocs/AFI
Special Jury Prize – Pravo Ljudski Human Rights Festival, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Grand Prize – Escales Documentaires, La Rochelle, France
Best Director – CRONOGRAF Documentary Film Festival, Moldova
Nominated – Grierson Best Historical Film, UK
Nominated – FOCAL Award for Best Use of Archival Footage
Global Issues Award – Mendocino Film Festival
Best Documentary – Milwaukee Film Festival
Nominated – History Makers Award, Best Use of Archive
Nominated – International Press Academy Award, Best Documentary
International Film Festival Rotterdam, Netherlands
Doha Tribeca Film Festival, Doha, Qatar
Hot Docs Film Festival, Toronto, Canada
“Cinema Verité” Iran International Documentary Film Festival, Tehran, Iran

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Subtitles
  • Resources for Educators

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English

Promotional Material

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