Article by Alice Tchernookova
On 26 November, the film Sergiy Loznitsa’s documentary Maidan was shown at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts, followed up by a panel discussion.
The showing was a great success with a nearly full room.
The audience was split between British and Ukrainians; some came out of a professional interest, with a specialist’s eye, while others came with a more sentimental approach, having witnessed the Maidan events themselves or having family back in their homeland.
In any case, Loznitsa’s documentary, which came out in 2014 and was largely acclaimed by the critique — it was nominated at the 67th Cannes Festival —, clearly still attracts a lot of attention and stirs debates.
In fact, Maidan displays a real «parti–pris» with its ultra–minimalist style: dialogues are reduced to the bare minimum, no comments are made. Loznitsa made the choice to go against the conventions of a traditional documentary film by not including a voiceover narration or interviews.
Only a few times during the movie, a few lines of explanation appear on the screen to give a minimum of context, and to describe, in no more than a few words, the different stages of the conflict.
The viewer is absolutely left to his own reflections. No historian, sociologist, or any other sort of specialist, is there to give guidelines as to what one should make of these images.
Perhaps, such is Loznitsa’s real intention with this documentary.
Step by step, the viewer sees the conflict escalating. The sound and light are two very important tools for that purpose: the whole first part of the film is set during the way, and displays silent, very silent scenes.
As the action moves on, the images get darker and all of a sudden we are taken in the night, while the background noise grows ever louder as the conflict between the insurgents and the authorities builds up.
Explosions and shouts now punctuate the action. Hymns and songs, such as the very popular «Vitya, ciao!», accompany the rebels’ struggle. In an interview, Loznitsa said the sound in the film was actually a «very complicated mix with over a hundred tracks,» which is supposed to render the «vox populi», the people’s voice.
One will also notice that very few speeches delivered by politicians are included in the film.
As one watches Maidan, it becomes quite clear that mutual support and help between people were to essential ingredients for the protestors’ eventual victory in this conflict.
The Ukrainian people successufully ousted a president who, in their eyes, had lost legitimacy and credibility; without that certain feeling of ‘brotherhood’, it certainly would have not been possible. The French phrase, «l’union fait la force» («unity makes power»), could not possibly find a better illustration of its meaning.
The panel discussion that followed shortly brought together Raïssa Synova, PHD student in film, and a PHD student from UCL specialised in East European and Slavonic studies.
One of them reminded, quite rightly, that the documentary was never released in Russia.
Maidan’s minimalist style, of course, always splits opinions. A journalist who was in the room and had covered the Maidan events, said the film «lacked context or background information,» and should perhaps provide more details as to «why people were there.»
However, as Raïssa said, the angle of the documentary is that «Maidan is a symbol of struggle; it is about the people, and not about politics.»
Following–up from this discussion, a Ukrainian lady — who seemed very moved by the film — expressed with a shivering voice her regrets over the fact that «cold, intellectual people could discuss such a sensitive topic in such a cold–hearted way,» showing how diverse the audience was that night.
Maidan certainly still is a matter of discussion; to this day, many things remain resolved in this conflict, and films such as Loznitsa’s Maidan are here to remind us what people endured in their struggle for freedom and democracy.
The screaning was organized by DOCHOUSE
Tags: ukrainian movie