The London Film Festival 2014 recently screened two Ukrainian movies – Maidan and The Tribe. ‘Maidan’, the documentary by Sergey Loznitsa, was shown twice last week. Tickets sold out rapidly, and many of those who wanted to see the movie will now need to seek new opportunities to view this film, or wait to 2015 when the movie will be released for purchase.
For those who wish to view the movies sooner, we recommend attending the Ukrainian Film Festival in Cambridge on 7-8th November 2014 (please join this event on Facebook).
About the director:
Sergey Loznitsa, a Belarus-born Ukrainian film director, created his documentary ‘Maidan’ on protests which took place in Ukraine, showing the uprising of Ukrainians against the criminal regime of president Yanukovych. The film presents the events as they progressed from cheerful and peaceful rallies, with people acknowledging their rights and patriotism, that culminated in bloody battles between the protestors and riot police. These later incidents have gone on to be the first steps that are leading to a positive change in this beautiful nation’s identity.
Maidan was presented at the Cannes International Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival, and left different emotions and opinions of its viewers. Here we present just a small proportion some of the views and emotions felt by those who saw these unique documentaries.
Loznitsa about his movie:
“The picture is just information, all reports are just information,” Loznitsa said when asked what his film had contributed to the understanding of what happened in Ukraine. “What I add is a proposition to reflect about this event – what it was actually.” – Interview to Reuters by Will Russell (read more here).
“Unlike most documentaries, Maidan has a style. When I embark upon a film, I design a set of rules and create the film according to these rules. If the concept of the film revolves around masses of people, then the aesthetic of the film has to reflect this desire to depict masses of people. If I don’t use voiceover or commentary, I have to find a way to make spectators understand what’s going on. This means that the camera has to be static and I have to include some explanatory inter-titles. If I want to plunge the spectator into this event—and make him almost part of the event—it then means that I have to use long takes. This is the way that the structure of the film is built.” – Interview to The Daily Beast by Richard Porton (read more here).
Reviews by London Film Festival audience:
At the very beginning I hated it. But after 15 minutes or so, I started to feel soaked in, like it was me there on Maidan…
Kristina Moskalenko, freelance journalist, writes about culture (photo by Sandra Donskyte)
At the very beginning I hated it. Well, what do you usually expect from a documentary? It shows you the surroundings, then the situation, the heroes, then someone does something, the someone comments on it all, then someone else who has an opposite view comments and then the author raises their voice and gives us some universal truth or points to the question. Nothing like that was happening in this film, which was terrible at the beginning. But after 15 minutes or so, I started to feel soaked in. Like it was me there on Maidan simply walking around, watching around, trying to catch the reality as it is happening. Not as we want to see it or as we want to edit it, but as it is by itself, complicated and never two sided. Obviously, there is an author’s voice, but it is so subtle that I think it sets some new standard for the amount of author’s voice that me, as an educated member of the audience, want to hear. If it was a tiny bit more of the author’s presence I would probably think that the film is propaganda, that the author thinks I am not able to get it myself and it would turn me away from the film. The way it is put together is really true in a way that it doesn’t give you what you expect. And I think that for our days, when everything can be staged and when everyone knows what the audience wants and feeds it with it, the fact that it DOES NOT give you what you want/expect is just perfect.
.. this minimum-commentary narrative… won’t be to everyone’s liking, especially for those expecting action or stunning video material.
Pavlo Yushchenko, law graduate from University of London, working in publishing
I am not sure how to describe the director’s documentary style or, indeed, if there is a niche name for this minimum-commentary narrative. To put mildly, it won’t be to everyone’s liking, especially for those expecting action or stunning video material. The first hour or so of the movie contains countless movement of people (often mundane and seemingly unnecessary details), often with virtually no explanation which would make it hard to watch for someone not familiar with the chronology of the protests. It would however, be fair to say that in a few aspects the author did succeed, namely in depicting the level of self-organisation dominant in Maidan, solidarity and passion. The last half hour of the movie with the climax of 18-20 February is expectedly the hardest to watch with the killings, violence and the funeral. Overall, the movie lacks many aspects of a traditional documentary, although a traditional informative format of the narrative was probably not the author’s intention.
…a visually through time-and-place travel experience…but understanding of the Ukrainian situation via this film would be significantly enriched if presented with just a bit more information.
Inga Loyeva, Ukrainian/American artist currently living and working in London
The documentary film, Maidan, was a visually through time-and-place travel experience. It provided me, as a viewer, a firm sensation of arriving in Kyiv, wandering through the barricaded square, observing all the people present, overhearing tids and bids of conversations, trying to figure out why they occupied the space and what they hoped to achieve. It seems that Sergey Loznitsa intended to gift the viewers not only primary source documentation but also a sense of physical presence in observing the unraveling events. In my eyes, he succeeded elegantly. Furthermore, the footage did an excellent job of documenting people from various layers of society that were present and active during the occupation of Maidan.
As someone who spent just one week on Maidan, I think the film presented a candid visual experience for those who did not have a chance to be present in the center of Kyiv in person. Many of us Ukrainians, though scattered across the globe, followed the events ferociously across news and social media. However, during the showing I sat near my Egyptian brother-in-law, who was familiar only with major headline and I found myself explaining the timeline much more detail throughout the film. Although he was able to empathize with the revolution, having spent some time in Tahrir Square, we agreed that his understanding of the Ukrainian situation via this film would be significantly enriched if presented with just a bit more information.
I believe that this movie should be changed or banned completly from viewing as it does not reflect true picture of events and us as Ukrainian nation.
Anna Vityk, originally from Lviv, living and studying in the UKfor the last 10 years.
Maidan movie left a bad taste in my mouth. I wish producer put more effort in organising screening events at Maidan and presenting full scale picture to the whole world. After watching this movie, avarage person that has no idea what’s going on in Ukraine would get it completly wrong. From my point of view there were not enough facts about all the crime and scale of damage done by Ukrainian government to Ukrainian people. In the movie all the bloody scence and murders were nicely omitted and the whole scale of crime against nation was hidden. As example showing only two coffins at the same time as more then hundred people had been killed. Moreover scenes with police going against Ukrainian people were too exaggerating showing how one of the spinners was shoot by ordinary citizen. The whole idea of Maidan movie seemed to be too antiukrainian. If we agreed to show this to the entire world, us as nation will not be welcomed in European Union anytime soon, and attitude towards us from other nations will be very negative or very passive. Maidan is new page in Ukrainian history and feeling that I have until now is that the whole movie was made to order to show us as unorganised, angry nations to the entire world. I believe that this should be changed or banned completly from viewing as it doesn’t not reflect true picture of events and us as Ukrainian nation. Subtitle in English were absolutely awful not enough to understand events. Question is do we need such a untrue representation of us as a nation to the whole world?
Ukrainian Events in London team is grateful for all the comments shared with us. Please send your reviews on Ukrainian movies screaned at London Film Festival to firstname.lastname@example.org
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