REFUSENIK is the first retrospective documentary to chronicle the thirty-year movement to free Soviet Jews. It shows how a small grassroots effort bold enough to take on a Cold War superpower blossomed into an international human rights campaign that engaged the disempowered and world leaders alike. Told through the eyes of activists on both sides of the Iron Curtain – many of whom survived punishment in Soviet Gulag labor camps – the film is a tapestry of first-person accounts of heroism, sacrifice, and ultimately, liberation.
The campaign to free Soviet Jewry is a major event in Jewish history. By 1992, one and a half million Jews had left the Soviet Union to live in freedom as a direct result of what was likely the most successful human rights campaign of all times.
REFUSENIK illustrates how individuals can utilize the power inherent in a tolerant democracy and literally change the world. The tactics and methods developed by activists in this struggle became examples to the rest of the world, forever changing the human rights landscape.
One of the proudest chapters in Jewish history, the story of the refuseniks demonstrates the need for Jewish solidarity, the importance of the State of Israel, and the responsibilities we face as individuals living in a democracy.
Much of the material used in REFUSENIK is unique and exclusive to this film. Interviews with key leaders in the movement are some of the first-ever to be recorded. Many of the photographs and covert film footage – some of it smuggled out of the Soviet Union – have never been seen before by a large audience, and help make REFUSENIK a unique portrait of this amazing story.