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November 8 - 17, 2014

Portraits of History. The Films of Sergei Loznitsa

The films of Ukranian director Sergei Loznitsa (b. 1964) are rooted in the rich tradition of avant-garde documentary so central to the history of Soviet cinema. After graduating in 1997 from the intensely selective Russian State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow, Loznitsa directed a series of striking and celebrated short films as a member of the legendary St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio. Free of any kind of voice over or explanatory devices, Loznitsa’s short documentaries are instead pure cinematic poems whose subtle arguments are made through careful montage and arresting imagery which captures both the quickening pulse of Russia in the midst of the profound political and socio-cultural transition, and the deeper echoing rhythms of history. The lyricism and lasting melancholy of Loznitsa’s early films define a different, subtler mode of political cinema perhaps best exemplified in The Train Stop, a haunting vision of a train station waiting room filled with passengers all deep in a strange and unbroken slumber, travelers on oneiric and unexplained voyages. In 2010 Loznitsa directed his first feature film, My Joy, a dark and brilliantly trenchant road movie in which the seeming random encounters of a hapless truck driver together reveal the sharpest contradictions and troubling continuities defining 21st century Russia. Loznitsa’s second feature, In the Fog turned back in time to the searing blood-soaked battlefield that was Ukraine during the Second World War. An angry and lucid examination of the blurred borders between collaboration and patriotism, In the Fog confirmed Loznitsa as an unflinching and keenly intelligent artist able to use narrative cinema to genuinely engage politics and history. His powerful new film Maidan turns to the urgent present moment of Ukraine, capturing the nation’s still unresolved struggle through a series of epic and symphonic portraits of the massive anti-government protests that swept the nation and the violent retribution that followed.

The Harvard Film Archive is honored to welcome Sergei Loznitsa to present and discuss Maidan and My Joy and gratefully thanks and acknowledges the Flaherty Seminar and Colgate University for their collaboration on this program.– Haden Guest

Sergei Loznitsa’s visit and films are shown in concert with Lives of the Great Patriotic War, an exhibition presented by the Harvard Library and the Blavatnik Archive Foundation focusing on Jewish participation in the Soviet Armed Forces during WWII (known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War). Featuring war-time diaries, letters, photographs and contemporary oral testimonies, the exhibitions brings to life a largely unknown chapter of Jewish history: the participation of 500,000 Soviet Jewish soldiers in the fight against German fascism.

Special thanks: the Blavatnik Archive Foundation; Kate Kondayen, Kira Poplowski, Sarah Thomas—Harvard Library; Sarie Horowitz, Anita Reher—The Flaherty; David Dinnell, Ted Kennedy—Ann Arbor Film Festival; Mary Simonson—Colgate University


$12 Special Event Tickets
Sergei Loznitsa in person

Saturday November 8 at 7pm

Maidan

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa
Ukraine/Netherlands 2014, digital video, color, 130 min. Ukrainian with English subtitles

Maidan impresses for both its invaluable footage from the frontlines of history and a masterful set of long takes, with a mostly static camera. Loznitsa’s latest feature film finds him returning to non-fiction after My Joy and In the Fog to document the so-called “Euromaidan” protests in Kiev’s Maidan Square. The occupation of the square began in November 2013, in opposition to Viktor Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a trade agreement with the European Union but to seek closer ties between the Ukraine and Russia, and culminated in the overthrow of his presidency in February 2014. Loznitsa presents the mounting unrest in a series of tableaux, emphasizing the collective aspect of the protests by eschewing close-ups. His masterful use of framing becomes increasingly impressive as the camera moves closer to the action even as violence erupts.

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$12 Special Event Tickets
Sergei Loznitsa in person

Sunday November 9 at 7pm

My Joy (Schaste moe)

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa. With Viktor Nemets, Vlad Ivanov, Maria Varsami
Germany/Ukraine/Netherlands 2010, 35mm, color, 127 min. Russian and German with English subtitles

For his feature debut Loznitsa crafted a fable qua cautionary tale of a hopelessly naïve truck driver led by an unexpected detour on a long and increasingly strange voyage into the dark heart of post-Communist Russia. Channeling the portraits of Russian national character gathered in Loznitsa’s early documentaries, My Joy transforms the driver’s picaresque encounters into a kind of choral voice singing a darkly satiric dirge mourning the troubled state of 21st century Russia. Shot by celebrated Romanian cinematographer Oleg Mutu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days; The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), My Joy is animated by dynamic camerawork that gives a fierce energy and raw beauty to Loznita’s ultimately savage critique of the endemic corruption, violence and avarice that, he argues, have taken a cancerous hold on the national psyche of Russia today.

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Saturday November 15 at 7pm

In the Fog (V tumane)

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa. With Vladimir Svirski, Vlad Abashin, Sergei Kolesov
Germany/Russia/Latvia/Belarus/Netherlands 2012, digital video, color, 127 min. Russian with English subtitles

A nihilistic and mesmerizing vision of the hopelessly vengeful spiral of war, In the Fog takes place in Nazi-occupied Belarus and loosely centers around a cryptic woodsman guide suspected of collusion with the Germans and swiftly condemned to death by his Partisan friends. Opening with a devastating extended tracking shot revealing a Hieronymus Bosch-like scene of a Partisan camp centered around a public hanging of suspected traitors, In the Fog slowly builds to its unexpected climax as it travels through the primordial autumnal forest made alive through the shadows and dark sanguine colors invented by master cinematographer Oleg Mutu. Loznitsa’s adaptation of a novel by Belarusian writer Vasil Bykov leaves deliberately unexplained much of the background and events of In the Fog, plunging the viewer instead into the same confusion denied by the soldiers who stubbornly cling to the artificial romantic ideal of wartime heroism.

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Sunday November 16 at 5pm

Blockade (Blokada)

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa
Russia 2005, digital video, b/w, 52 min. Russian with English subtitles

The epic and disastrous 900-day Nazi siege that almost destroyed Leningrad comes alive with fierce and angry intensity in Loznitsa’s incredible and symphonic found footage film. An unflinching chronicle of the near death of a city and the stoic heroism of the Russian resistance, Blockade uses archival footage to skillfully craft almost musical movements describing the harrowing ordeal and revealing fleeting glimpses of the everyday of the stubborn and courageous community that fought back.

Followed by

Reflections

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa
Russia/Netherlands 2014, digital video, b/w, 17 min. No dialogue

The expanded director’s cut of Loznita’s contribution to the omnibus film, The Bridges of Sarajevo.

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Monday November 17 at 7pm

Today We Are Going to Build a House
(Segodnya my postroim dom)

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa
Russia 1996, 35mm, b/w, 28 min. No dialogue

 

The Train Stop (Polustanok)

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa
Russia 2000, 35mm, b/w, 25 min. No dialogue

 

Factory (Fabrika)

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa
Russia 2004, 35mm, color, 30 min. No dialogue

 

Portrait (Portret)

Directed by Sergei Loznitsa
Russia 2002, 35mm, b/w, 28 min. No dialogue

 

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