Radical Filmmaker - Sergei Loznitsa
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Festival in Media
2018-11-15

 

The 19th Tbilisi International Film Festival will be visited by Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, whose films: feature - Donbass and documentaries - The Trial and Victory Day will be screened in the section "Director in Focus".

Sergei Loznitsa was born on September 5th, 1964 in Baranavichy, Belorussia. He studied at school in Kyiv. In 1981 he enrolled in Kyiv Polytechnic Institute and graduated in 1987 as a mathematician.

After graduating, he worked on experiment systems of artificial intelligence in the Institute of Cybernetics. At the same time, he was a Japanese language translator. In 1991 he entered Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography, in the department of directing and graduated from the workshop of Nana Jorjadze. In 2001, he moved to Germany with his family. Since then, Loznitsa has made many feature and documentary films. That's how we can start talking about the filmmaker of "radical cinema" as world press states it. His films are about the world of lost hope and indifferent society where the absurd and black humor take shifts.

My Joy was the first movie I saw of Loznitsa. The member of competition programme, this film was the only work in the programme of Cannes 2010, with absolutely different feedback. For the acknowledged documentary filmmaker, My Joy was the first feature. And also it was the first time, Ukrainian film was fighting for Palm d'Or.

Two men are hauling a dead body, put it in the hole and pour cement. A huge truck full or soil appears in the shot. And it comes straight to you, just like the Lumiere train. After a second, the soil pours down on your head. You get buried. This is the story of a truck driver who gets lost in somewhere or nowhere. In the faraway village of Russia, where he meets people of the countryside.

In this film, Loznitsa doesn't get rid of the close-ups and enrich the film with fantastic characters: a teenage prostitute, the "unnamed" hero of the World War II, two robbers, humiliating police officers... rude, severe, heartless... It doesn't matter what year or which century, it was always the same - says Loznitsa - it is and always was one huge swamp that destroys everything. It is a film-shock, with especially fierce, unexpected beginning and the end. Andrey Zvyagintsev named this film as the best Russian film of the decade.
He is the most debatable director in the post-soviet space. His esthetics are often discussed but behind the critics of Russian press, there is a hidden aggression for the political basis, so characteristic for his films. Which is hated in Kremlin and which is always, highly expressed in his films. So, it's not a surprise that Russian media blames Loznitsa for making "Anti-Russian" films.


Donbass is a 2018 movie, premiered at Cannes in Un Certain Regard section. The world of Donbass is the world of fake industry, crime and corruption. In the film made with several novels, human histories and stories spread around the press or mainly in internet are intertwisted. One story goes into another and these stories interchange over and over again. This film is about the society which has no future, Donbass - is a territory which froze, died and demands to be born again. "This is the film which, without any position of conformism, without showing "two face of Russia", without admitting the guilt of both sides, shows the cruelty, lie and loath based state which uses every way to fulfill its imperialist goals. If there is the second guilty in this war, this is not Ukraine. This is us. Each and every of us looking at this was through screens and the whole world who lets Putin get what he wants." - wrote Ninia Kakabadze in the article for AT.

Donbass is "portrait of a society where human interaction has descended to a level of barbarity more in keeping with late antiquity than the so-called contemporary civilized world." - notes Variety.

Victory Day is another 2018 film by Loznitsa, which was premiered at Berlin Film Festival. Treptower Park Memorial in Berlin is one of the biggest monuments dedicated to the World War II. Crowds gather every year on the 9th of May to celebrate the victory of the Red Army and the Soviet people over Nazi Germany. This film documents the proceedings from early morning, when a small group of visitors enter with their dogs, pulling a little wagon carrying a portrait of Stalin, to the evening, after the last patriotic songs have been sung, the selfies with flags sent, the vodka drunk and the speeches have faded away.

Trial is his third film of 2018, which was first screened to the audience in Venice Film Festival. It is even named an "archival horror of Stalin repressions" as it is made of footages of public trials. It's 1930 in Moscow, USSR. The Soviet government puts a group of top rank economists and engineers on trial, accusing them of plotting a coup d'état. The charges are fabricated and the punishment, if convicted, is death.

"If you want to be afraid in the movies, forget Suspiria and go see The Trial - whites the Russian online edition Meduza.io, - "Fear is guaranteed but there, instead of ghosts and maniacs, you'll see top-ranked engineers, of different age. They confess to all of the fabricated crimes and diligently testify against themselves, one after another, declare themselves as the enemy of the state, with calm and soft voice. What did Loznitsa do? He just edited the documentary footages. But, No. Loznitsa, as a true artist, always know when and where to do his job. So, The Trial is an acute film with its actuality, as the main spectacle goes on in the viewers head, after seeing the film, when each of them start to remember all these cases. The film is almost unbearable, especially in the moment of declaring sentence, which is met with great applause and absolutely satisfied, almost happy smile on people's faces."

In his interview with The Guardian about one of his latest films, A Gentle Creature, he makes accents on Russia and its politics. He compares the history of Russia to one of "copy-paste" and says, that it's the system of "crime brain and crime mentality". He acknowledges that there have been moments where citizens have tried to swap autocracy for democracy - in 1917 and 1991, for example - but says that these attempts at creating another culture all failed. "It's very difficult to change the mentality of a whole nation. The big question is how to educate people who don't want to be educated," he says.

"Hell isn't when horrible things happen. Hell is when horrible things happen again and again." Loznitsa acknowledges that this same hell feeds his work and imagination. "Yes, some magic exists in Russia... You could say that hell has its attractions."

 

Salome Kikaleishvili

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