Due to Hong Kong’s 2019 protests, many Hong Kong viewers’ only knowledge of Ukrainian cinema is most likely the documentary Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (2015). But why stop at one film when Ukrainian cinema has so much more to offer? And there is no better starting point than the works of Sergei Loznitsa.
Like Winter on Fire, Loznitsa’s Maidan (2014) is also a documentary about the Euromaidan movement. Yet its approach is hugely different, namely its use of mostly fixed master shots to capture the highs and lows of the protests. Its strong and modern style has set itself apart from a field of protest-related documentaries in recent years.
Since he left his life as an engineer (and part-time Japanese translator), Loznitsa has been an avid documentary filmmaker since his days studying film in Russia. In 2001, he moved to Germany for better prospects in finding funding to make films. Even though he has made 20 documentaries, Loznitsa became an internationally renowned filmmaker with his fictional feature debut, My Joy (2010), with a slot in the main competition at Cannes Film Festival. His subsequent films, such as In the Fog (2012) and Maidan, have made him a regular at the French Riviera.
Recognition from the international film community has not tempered Loznitsa’s innovative spirit. In 2015, he released The Event, which was edited from footage shot by eight cinematographers during a failed Soviet coup in 1991. His recent film Donbass (2018) combines his talent in both documentary and fictional filmmaking for an absurdist vision of life near the Ukrainian-Russian border. His career has unwittingly become a witness to Ukraine’s political upheaval, showing his audience that true revolution does not end happily ever after at the end of one film.