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Oxana Shachko, Anna Hutsol, Inna Shevchenko, Alexandra Shevchenko
Alain Margot
94 Mins.
First Run Features

 "I Am Femen" Released by First Run Features 
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Known around the world as the topless female activists who fight corrupt and patriarchal political systems, Femen's weapon of choice is their bodies. They've placed those bodies front and center in protests around the streets of Kiev and all across Europe - in the process, they've been exposed and threatened and endangered and they've captured the hearts and minds of similarly minded activists in other parts of the world.

They get praise. They get scorn.

Femen's creative backbone is Oksana Shachko, who nearly entered a convent as a young girl but who has instead created Femen and devoted her entire life to activism. Director Alain Margot centers much of I Am Femen around Shachko, but it is most certainly not exclusively about her. It is about the cause, as it should be, but there's no denying that Shachko's presence is a charismatic one and she's surrounded by rather remarkable young women whose stories also unfold here as these women put their bodies on the front line in a fight for justice and equality that, in many of the places they protest, is an action that can lead to harm, imprisonment, or even death.

When you think of female protestors, especially in Russia, you often think of Pussy Riot, the punk rock band known for being imprisoned for their outrageous boldness and actions.

Having seen one other documentary about Femen, 2013's Ukraine is Not a Brothel, I approached I Am Femen with both a little wariness and a preconceived notion of what to expect from the documentary.

I didn't get what I expected.

Ukraine is Not a Brothel approached the film from a darker, more cynical place and was rather unflinching in its questioning of the organization's motives. While I'm hesitant to call I Am Femen a more "sympathetic" documentary, there's more of a focus on Shachko as a co-founder of the organization and the art, beauty, intelligence, and passion that she brings to her activism. I Am Femen is decidedly empty of a pre-conceived notion and more willing to give itself to the duality that is Shachko - a duality of contemporary revolutionary meets artist and inspiring young woman.

Margot nicely captures it all, though I'm sure that Ukraine is Not a Brothel director Kitty Green might disagree with some of Margot's less controversial and challenging conclusions. Of course, Shachko is not alone here in her activism and the film captures Anna Hutsol, Inna Shevchenko, and Alexandra Shevchenko among others as they expose themselves, expose injustice, and bit by bit do waht they can to create a more just and equal world.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  

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