Sergei Loznitsa speaks on the filming of Ukrainian social movements

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Reflecting on history often helps us orient ourselves in the midst of crises such as the current Russian-Ukrainian war. This was the reason for the “Historical Moments and Movements in Ukrainian Art and Cinema: From Medieval to Contemporary” webinar co-hosted by the Departments of Russian and Eastern European Studies at Stanford and Yale.

On Friday, world-renowned filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, director of award-winning documentaries such as “Maidan” and “Donbass”, discussed his experiences illustrating ongoing social movements in Ukraine through film in a moderated conversation with Srdan Keca, professor cinema documentary assistant at Stanford.

Loznitsa, who grew up in Soviet Ukraine, focused her films on topics such as russian revolution, Stalinist purges and the Moscow Trials, among others. “Maidan” was an outlier in Loznitsa’s works due to its portrayal of a changing situation at the intersection of historical lines; as Keca pointed out, the film explores the Euromaidan protests in 2013 which are often considered to represent the revival of democratic culture in Ukraine. Loznitsa’s experience introducing the reality of Euromaidan in Ukraine to Western audiences has given her a unique perspective on the role of images in the current war.

“This war is being fought online, and we are all witnesses to its tragedies,” Loznitsa said. “Photographs of the current crisis ‘attack’ us and leave us speechless in a way that transforms us.”

Loznitsa pointed to the power behind the ability of social media images to affect our physical sensations and humanize the victims of war. As a listener, it reminded me of the power of photographs of the plight of Ukrainian civilians in evoking sympathy around the world and contributing to positive social change. I was also reminded of disinformation campaigns that the Kremlin used to justify the invasion of Ukraine.

Loznitsa, while filming “Maidan,” marveled at the energy displayed by the protesters and the kindness with which they looked at each other, all stemming from their common pursuit of a utopian dream of liberal democracy. He felt the significance of the event at the time, bringing his film crew to Maidan Square to film the citizens gathering in an effort to portray everything to future viewers as objectively as possible.

“I tried to limit camera movement,” Loznitsa said of her efforts to minimize actions that might remind viewers of the presence of a filter lens. “I wanted the public to witness the event with their own eyes.”

The director expressed his intention to shed light on the behaviors of ordinary people during Euromaidan, omitting politicians. He excluded images of popular “victory” celebrations – the establishment of a democratic process at the end of the movement – in order to emphasize the commemoration of those who are mistreated by the police or persecuted as dissidents, who number in the hundreds.

Loznitsa told webinar attendees that half of the audience at the film’s first screening at the Odessa Film Festival criticized the film for not having a clear message as to who is guilty in the Euromaidan disputes, pointing to a societal tendency to politicize documentaries. But for Loznitsa, the cinematic medium should not aim to pass judgments on the story but to provide the viewer with the most accurate descriptions of events.

To inspire audiences to morally participate in the current crisis, the director urged listeners to delve into the works of filmmakers who unearth historical trends that illuminate our understanding of today’s reality. He praised the work of Kira Muratova, among many others, who portrayed themes of changed humanity after the collapse of the Soviet Union and created films that reveal how the dictatorial tradition started by the Russian Revolution persists. today.

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