Sergeï Loznitsa: “Ukraine has become a gigantic place of massacre…”

Through his fictions and documentaries, the Ukrainian filmmaker has always been concerned about the explosive situation in his country. He was kind enough to answer our questions.

Looking back today, Donbass, screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018, we are surprised by its clairvoyance and premonitory tone. Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa (In the fog, A sweet woman…) took as a backdrop the so-called hybrid war in the Donbass, a region located in the east of Ukraine, between the population and the Russian separatists. Cut into several stories directly inspired by reality, this feature film demonstrated the cruelty and absurdity of soldiers blinded by hatred. He was especially worried about a possible conflagration of this region in the heart of Europe. 2022, here we are. Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, to relentlessly bombard the country forcing millions of men and women to find refuge elsewhere. Filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, 57, who was filming his new film in Lithuania a few weeks ago, has dropped his cameras. He observes in dismay this reverse march of the world. While the 44th edition of the International Documentary Festival, Cinema of the Realopens this Friday at the Center Pompidou in Paris with his latest film, Mr Landsbergisstudy on the movements of emancipation of the Lithuanians to extract themselves from the Soviet yoke after the fall of the Berlin wall, it is by email that the filmmaker was kind enough to answer our questions.

Your fictions, like your documentaries, have for several years explored the tensions that exist between the Ukrainian population and the Russian separatists. Are you surprised by the suddenness of the Russian invasion in Ukraine?

Sergei Loznitsa: Not in the least! I knew this war was going to break out sooner or later. It would be a mistake to reduce this conflict to an opposition between the Russian and Ukrainian populations. It is a war of civilization between Soviet ideology and European values, between a colonial state and anti-colonialists, between barbarism and humanity.

Do you feel like you haven’t been heard enough?

It’s not up to me to judge my audience. The most important thing is to have been able to say what I had to say and to continue to do so through films, of course, but also through interviews like this one.

The violence of this invasion surprised some observers…

… A few days ago the Russian army bombarded the Jewish memorial of Babi Yar, it is the very example of barbarism. Even if it is apparently about an error of trajectory of a missile which aimed rather the television tower, the symbolic dimension is very strong. Civilians were killed on the very spot where the Nazis carried out genocide during World War II. It can therefore be said that the whole of Ukraine has become a gigantic place of massacre.

Cannes 2018: Donbass, by Sergei Loznitsa, is a crazy film [critique]

In every war, the place of images and their possible manipulations is crucial. How does the filmmaker that you are observe the representation of this war?

For the time being, it is very difficult for me to have a reading as a filmmaker. We are faced with an incalculable number of different sources. I have to be constantly on the lookout, to bring together as many disparate elements as possible, to study them in order to decipher them, to then propose a reflection on the way in which the images succeeded or failed in conveying the violence and the truth of the situation. The story is on…

Why did you withdraw fromEuropean Film Academy ?

Since the beginning of this war, I find their communiqués shameful and cowardly. I don’t want to be associated with organizations that just say ” very concerned of what is happening and who is doing nothing. They refuse to call things by their name. A war is a war. They finally changed their position and announced, for example, a boycott of all Russian films and teams at major international festivals… I don’t agree with that. No one should be judged on their passport but on their positions, their actions. Several Russian filmmakers have condemned this war and decided to leave Russia. Their voices deserve to be heard.

Your feature film A sweet woman (2017) adapted from a novel by Dostoyevsky, offered a very pessimistic vision of the future of Russia. How do you see the future?

I repeat, this war does not oppose only Russia to Ukraine but Russia to the civilized world and mainly to the whole of Europe. The future of Europe is therefore in the hands of Europeans. If they remain passive and leave Ukraine to fight alone, the escalation of aggression will continue and other European countries will be attacked. If, on the contrary, Europe shows solidarity and not only by imposing sanctions or by organizing humanitarian missions but by providing strong military aid to confront our common enemy, then we will have a chance to make Russia yield.

To read : Sergei Loznitsa, a world-proof cinema (Northern University Press)

Leave a Reply