Ukrainian Serhii Loznytsia is a talented film director and a person with a clear civic stand. He has proved this with his documentaries and feature films. It will be recalled that his debut full-length film My Joy was the first Ukrainian film included in the competition program of the Cannes Festival.
The director’s documentary film Maidan is an attempt to ponder over the events of modern Ukrainian history which struck the world and made it look attentively at our country. There is no sense in giving a detailed analysis of the film: its release in Ukraine took place on July 24 with the help of the company Arthouse Traffic. But the film has already impressed the festival audiences of Cannes, Karlovy Vary, and Odesa.
Taking advantage of the fact that Serhii Loznytsia was one of the main judges at the Fifth Odesa International Film Festival, The Day invited him for an interview.
Serhii, you’re a person who can feel the time. This is clearly expressed in your films, both documentaries and feature films. When you came to Kyiv and decided to shoot Maidan, did you have a presentiment that that was a crucial event, not only for Ukraine, because the entire world got agitated? Or was it simply a desire to have a filmed document?
“I felt this when a million of people went into the streets. It was December 1 or 2 – I watched the reports of Hromadske TV. And I came to Kyiv only in the middle of December, because, unfortunately, I could not come earlier. I had to finish the work on the film for the almanac Bridges of Sarajevo. But when I came to Kyiv and went into Khreshchatyk, everything became clear for me.”
At first Maidan was peaceful and festive. No one wanted to die; people simply were defending their human dignity. Being amidst of it, shooting everything, did you feel the turning point, when it became a serious and tragic event?
“I was there to see the tension. Everyone was expecting an attack. That was December 14-17. Then on St. Nicholas Day it became more or less clear that they [the power] stepped back and that nobody would dare to spoil the festivities before Christmas. After all, these are sacred things. Cameraman Serhii Stetsenko was shooting the events that followed. I met him at Maidan; we were introduced to each other by a friend of mine. We met a couple of times; I explained to him what exactly I needed. I had to leave Kyiv. In the period from January to March Serhii sent me the material several times.”
When you were making the film, did you understand what response it will cause, before you showed it to the audience? Did you forebode the reaction?
“I don’t think about such things at all. It was important for me to create the structure of the film. In a situation when I had a huge pile of materials, it was very hard to choose the important things and refuse from what I could not include in the film. We had over 100 hours of materials. Over this period a huge number of events, with each one being absolutely worth of a separate film, happened. For example, the appearance of the criminal element, ‘thugs,’ in the streets of Kyiv. The story of the power’s using of the criminals to achieve their goals. Or a separate film can be made based on the material shot on January 18, because it was a story too, quite a tragic one. But I have a different task, to show how the situation was developing from the moment of its emergence. It is a different scale. I had to leave out certain things and, of course, I couldn’t and didn’t want to make emphasis on the bloody scenes. The audience cannot be exposed to such a trial, because the possibilities of perception are not limitless.
“The picture offers dramaturgy of its own. There are rules of the genre. I had to follow these rules, not the chronological sequence. For example, the picture cannot be turned into an unending battle. Nobody can stand this.”
The audience has seen the film. Cannes and Karlovy Vary applauded to it. Many events have taken place in Ukraine since then and the time of Maidan, in the supreme meaning of the word, is over. How do you assess the current events of Ukraine and the inability to finish the Maidan? Should it be done?
“It is hard for me to judge, because the type of the events that are taking place is absolutely different. Ukraine has been drawn into a war. It is not called plainly a war, but it is a most real war between two neighboring states.
“The attempt to defend the territory is an absolutely natural process. As is known, a war is practically an inevitable consequence of a revolution. Maidan has receded to the background as a ‘museum of revolutionary folkways.’ But the idea of viche (assembly) has not disappeared. If the government and the parliament will be unable to solve some situation, the people will gather again.”
I have a question which refers to the topic we discussed last year, about your new film Babyn Yar. How is it going on? What are the prospects? Is Ukraine supporting you?
“The screenplay has passed the first selection round in the Cinema Foundation, and the second round was supposed to take place last December. Out of clear reasons, it didn’t take place. We expected that the film would be partially funded by Ukraine. This is one of the reasons why we have postponed the shooting, but it is not the most important one. The most important thing is that the war has begun. As the biggest share of funding comes from abroad, it is hard to insure the money. The insurance companies refuse from insuring or ask for a huge sum for the risks to the money of the foundations that support the film. I was going to shoot a part of the film in Lviv, another part – not far from Kyiv, and the third part – in Kharkiv.
“I am getting ready to shoot it next year. Bit by bit we are receiving the funding. This film involves a lot of crowd scenes, and the crowd is the main character of the film. I shot Maidan in the same style, in which I wanted to shoot Babyn Yar, where the main character is the people.”
And the last question is about Oleh Sentsov. I ask all of my interviewees at the Odesa International Film Festival to express their comment on what is going on with him.
“I have sent my greetings to Oleh recently via Moscow cinema critics and human rights activists, who visited him in jail. I very much hope that he will be released, as well as the men who were detained simultaneously with him. I think we need to speak about this all the time. I think it is an outrageous case of human rights abuse. I very much hope that the tortures and humiliation Oleh has suffered in KGB torture chambers won’t be able to break him. I know that my fellow moviemakers from entire Europe are concerned with Oleh’s fate. Recently Mikhalkov stated as well that Oleh must be released as soon as possible. I absolutely agree with him about this.”