Saturday, September 20, 2014


Майдан. NL/UA © Atoms & Void 2014. P: Maria Baker, Sergei Loznitsa. D+SC: Sergei Loznitsa. DP: Sergei Loznitsa, Serhiy Stefan Stetsenko, Mykhailo Yelchev. S: Vladimir Golovnitzky. ED: Danielius Kokanauskis, Sergei Loznitsa. Language: Ukrainian. 131 min
    A documentary about the events at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti Square, Kiev, Ukraine, during the winter 2013-2014.
    A DCP with English subtitles from Atoms & Void.
    A screener dvd-r viewed at home.
    First Helsinki International Film Festival (HIFF) screening at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 20 Sep 2014.

The HIFF Catalogue: Jay Weissberg, Variety: "In contrast with most documentaries made in the wake of an historic event, Maidan will last beyond the current Ukrainian upheaval to stand as compelling witness and a model response to a seminal moment too fresh to be fully processed. Kiev-raised Sergei Loznitsa uses almost exclusively fixed master shots filmed from December 2013 to February 2014, capturing in an emotionally gripping, minimalist way the protest’s trajectory from euphoric to besieged."

"The protests that began in December, following Yanukovych’s unpopular rejection of closer EU ties, began peacefully, as crowds in the square demonstrated their solidarity (…)."

"The atmosphere changes drastically after Jan 19 and the introduction of repressive anti-protest laws. (…) Tensions escalate as a water cannon is introduced, and then live ammo. (…) Loznitsa’s fixed positions immerse audiences in the commotion, making us eyewitnesses to the shifting tensions and providing a chilling immediacy often lacking in common reportage (superb sound editing also helps). When announcements from the stage exhort doctors and medics to make themselves known, there’s no need to actually see the speaker, since the importance lies in the myriad sensations that build within each shot."
Jay Weissberg, Variety (The HIFF Catalogue)

The HIFF Catalogue: "Sergei Loznitsa is a director born in the Soviet Union (in current Belarus) in 1964. Loznitsa has graduated from the Kiev Polytechnic Institute and he has worked as a scientist specialized in cybernetics. He also has a degree in filmmaking after studying at the Russian State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. Loznitsa has been directing documentaries since 1996.
    Filmography: Maidan (2014), Bridges of Sarajevo (2014), In the Fog (2012), My Joy (2010), Severnyy svet (2008), Sweet Sixties (2008), Revue (2008), Blockade (2006), Landscape (2003), The Settlement (2002).
(The HIFF Catalogue)

Cannes pressbook 2014: "MAIDAN chronicles a civil uprising which took place in Kiev (Ukraine) in the winter of 2013/14.The film follows the progress of the revolution: from peaceful rallies, half a million strong, in the Maidan square, to the bloody street battles between the protestors and riot police. MAIDAN is a portrait of an awakening nation, rediscovering its identity. Director Sergei Loznitsa rises above current political issues and looks at the nature of the popular uprising as a social, cultural and philosophical phenomenon. A powerful mix of enthusiasm, heroic struggle, terror, courage, aspiration, people's solidarity, folk culture, passion and self-sacrifice, MAIDAN is a stunning cinematic canvas combining classical film making style and documentary urgency." (Cannes pressbook 2014)

A record of a revolution. The Ukrainian revolution of 2014 was recorded in extenso by the master documentarist Sergei Loznitsa, in full awareness of the significance of what was going on. In December 2013 Loznitsa interrupted everything that he was doing and went to Maidan, the central square of Kiev. The result is this account of the revolution until the collapse of the Yanukovich government.

There is a majestic, epic quality in this movie, often filmed in long takes and long shots. As much as possible it is realized as a straight record, without comments, and without montage interpretations. We need to see the full picture.

It is an account of "we have had enough": of a government based on corruption and, literally, crime. It is a record of the ascent of self-respect, pride and courage. There is no way going back to slavery and oppression.

Although Loznitsa's movie records the development from a peaceful demonstration to violence inflicted by the powers-that-be, there is also always a sense of a fundamental tranquillity, an assured sense that the final victory is ours. "Heroes never die". This attitude also brings to mind Alexander Dovzhenko, the great poet of Ukrainian cinema.

There are memorable images of many kinds: building barricades, establishing canteens, mobile phones used as torches by the peaceful crowd.

In sociology, there are essential distinctions between a crowd, a mass, and a mob. Here we see the formation of a noble, self-disciplined revolutionary crowd.

There are no cinematographic records (not even fictional) of Finland's revolutions of November 1905 (see the image of the general strike on the town square of Tampere in November 1905) and March 1917. While watching Maidan I was thinking that the jubilant, liberated spirit in Finland must have been like this in those glorious months.

Director’s notes:

I went to Kiev in the middle of December. I knew it was urgent. I knew I had to be there and I had to film. I put off all my other projects and commitments and went to Maidan.

The euphoric atmosphere of the early days of Maidan felt so comforting and empowering that it felt like being in a maternal womb. Never before have I seen or experienced such solidarity, camaraderie and such an authentic spirit of freedom. It was amazing to see so many volunteers working together in such a harmony and with such zeal. Everybody seemed to be busy: guarding Maidan, helping out in the kitchens, providing medical assistance, performing on the stage of Maidan, coordinating volunteers. The night of December 19th, St Nicholas’s feast, felt like a medieval folk carnival – a free spirit of the nation, awakening from a long sleep.

During the first weeks of Maidan, there was danger, but also there was a lot of humour and laughter. This very particular Ukrainian sense of humour, which helped them get through some of the darkest moments of this nation’s history. They were laughing at incompetent and corrupt politicians rather than hating them. The creative energy was bursting, and dozens of amateur singers and poets performed their rather naïve, but incredibly honest and passionate ballads on the stage of Maidan. There was also the abundance of food... Perhaps, it’s been the most well fed revolution in history. Field kitchens were working round the clock and volunteers and ordinary citizens of Kiev were bringing tons of food supplies and home-made delicacies in order to feed everybody – they did not ask whether you were supporting the opposition or the regime...

By the middle of January the mood changed. It was not a carnival any more. It was a battle. Blood was shed. It was no longer a peaceful protest against corrupt president. It was a fight against an evil regime. It was a revolution...

Maidan is the first film in my rather long documentary career, when I actually had to follow the events of “real life”, as they were unfolding. This was a new and nerve-wrecking experience for me. Usually, when I start on a documentary, I start by laying out a complete structure of the film in my head. I know exactly how the film will begin, how the narrative will develop and how it will end.

Making Maidan was a completely different experience. I was receiving new footage throughout January and February, and as tension was escalating and blood was shed, I was editing the film, not knowing what ending to expect. I divided the film into several parts: the prologue, the celebration, the battle and the post-scriptum.

My goal is to bring the spectator to Maidan and make him experience the 90 days of revolution, as they unfolded. I wanted to distance myself from the events and to leave the spectator vis-à-vis with the events, without any commentary or voice-over narrative. I used long takes in order to immerse the spectator into the narrative. I tried to record as much direct sound as possible, and I’m going to use a lot of it in the film.

“Maidan” is an enigma to me, which I am yet to solve.

Sergei Loznitsa
March 2014

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