Thursday, June 15, 2023

Kievski protses / The Kiev Trial (in the presence of Sergei Loznitsa)

Sergei Loznitsa: Київський процес / Киевский процесс / Kievski protses / The Kiev Trial (UA/NL 2022). The public hanging of the Nazi criminals on the Kalinin Square (today's Independence Square), Kiev, 29 Jan 1946.

Київський процес / Киевский процесс
DIRECTOR: Sergei Loznitsa
COUNTRY: Ukraina, Alankomaat
YEAR: 2022
DURATION: 106 min
LANGUAGES: venäjä, saksa, ukraina / tekstitetty englanniksi
CATEGORY: Documentary Films, Sergei Loznitsa, Special Guests' Films, Subtitles in English
In the presence of Sergei Loznitsa hosted by Juhana von Bagh.
Viewed at the School, Sodankylä, Midnight Sun Film Festival (MSFF), 15 June 2023

The Kiev Trial, also known as the ‘Kiev Nuremberg’, took place in January of 1946 in the Soviet Union, and was one of the first post-war trials convicting German Nazis and their collaborators. 15 criminals, guilty of atrocities, which were later identified by the Nuremberg trials as “crimes against humanity”, faced justice in case No.1679 “On the atrocities committed by fascist invaders on the territory of the Ukrainian SSR.” Using unique, previously unseen, archive footage, Sergei Loznitsa reconstructs key moments of the proceedings, including statements of the defendants and testimonies of the witnesses, survivors of Auschwitz and Babi Yar among them. The film lays bare the ‘banality of evil’ and is devastatingly relevant today, as Ukrainian people are once again being subjected to the violence of barbarian invaders.

I came across the forgotten footage of the Kiev Trial when I was working on archive research for Babi Yar. Context. Having gained access to this unique footage, just as powerful as the famous Eichmann tapes, I decided to make a film reconstructing the entire trial. As always, my aim is to immerse the spectators into the atmosphere of the courtroom: to make them feel as if they are witnessing the whole trial from a seat in a public gallery. When I started this project in spring 2021, I couldn’t imagine, even in my worst nightmare, that Ukraine will once again become a battlefield and that innocent civilians will once again be subjected to brutal violence. Only this time the barbarian invaders wear Russian uniforms. We have been thrown 80 years back and it seems that no lessons from our recent history have been learnt... I wish with all my heart that we shall not have to wait for too long before the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity, being committed in Ukraine today, are brought to justice.

Mia Öhman (MSFF 2023): "Babi Yar. Context (2021) depicted the circumstances leading up to the massacre of more than 33 000 Ukrainian Jews. Partly the same but mostly still unseen archive material now gives us front row seats at the ”Kiev Nuremberg,” a war crimes trial held in January 1946.

We are in the bombed-out capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, examining what happened during the German occupation. The Moscow Central Studio of Documentary Film filmed and archived the show trial -type event, and Loznitsa trusts in the power of the images and sound. The true gruesomeness of the events is gradually revealed by the behaviour of the defendants, witnesses and interpreters; the tones of their voices, muffled stammers, extended pauses, strained positions, helpless looks, and the electrified reactions of the onlookers.

At times, one wonders what substances these people were ingesting to keep playing their parts. The witnesses appear in all their candour, forged fearless by their ordeal. The Germans explain how they carried out the decimation of the Ukrainians to make space for their own people. One stresses how he was forced to carry out his duties, and had he not done so, someone else might have with even more deadly consequences. Another one condemns the Nazi regime. All Germans are hanged in the square. After all, no one wants the horror and destruction of war to happen again." Mia Öhman

AA: The Kiev Trial is Sergei Loznitsa's follow-up and companion piece to Babi Yar. Context (2021). The earlier film focused on the infamous "rehearsal for the Holocaust", the newer film on "the Kiev Nuremberg" (it took place nine months before the Nuremberg Trials).

The strength and the focus of The Kiev Trial is in its concentration on the extraordinary official filmed records of the trial itself. The testimonies, given when everything was still fresh in memory, have engrossing immediacy. There is the Claude Lanzmann effect: we see nothing of the crimes committed, but listening to the voices of the witnesses who were actually there, we also in our mind's presence go there, comprehending everything more vividly than an illustrated reconstruction of the unimaginable could achieve.

Some of the footage is repeated from the earlier film, but in this context it, too, gains new meaning and resonance. I am in principle against showing public executions, but displaying the epic footage of the hanging of the Nazi criminals is valid and essential to the fulfillment of justice and this remarkable trial.

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