Sergei Loznitsa - CANCELLED!

A Master of Observational Cinema

Sergei Loznitsa, Ukrainian filmmaker, who is world-known thanks to his short and feature-length documentaries as well as fiction films. His first two fiction films, My Joy (2010) and In the Fog (2012) had their world premieres at the Festival de Cannes, where In the Fog received the FIPRESCI prize. These two world-wide success were followed by the premiere of feature-length documentary Maidan (2014) at the Festival de Cannes too.  Recently, Loznitsa finished documentary Austerlitz (2016), an observation of the visitors to a memorial site that has been founded on the territory of a former concentration camp.

Sergei Loznitsa was born in Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union, he grew up in Ukraine and pursued a film career after first studying mathematics. In 1991 he entered Russian State Institute of Cinematography, in Moscow. After graduating in 1997, Loznitsa directed a series of striking and celebrated short films as a member of the legendary St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio.

He has directed 18 internationally acclaimed documentary films. His earlier documentaries Blockade and Revue used archival footage to portray the siege of Leningrad in World War II and daily life under Communism.


"Both genres are quite interesting, and I like them both equally. In feature films, I can do things that I’m not allowed to do with documentary. And feature films are more open for fantasy. With documentary you have more limitation – by, let’s say, life around us, which we can’t fix. You can’t always express yourself how you want. The rest is the same. I work with documentary and feature-film footage in more or less the same way. Documentary footage is something I do not influence. I don’t provoke the situation, it’s a pure observation. My only provocation is the camera. But with a feature film we provoke and we create. Another difference, of course, is the amount of people who work with you. With documentary cinema you are more free. You have four people on the set and that’s enough. You can travel and spend your time without thinking how much money every hour is costing."

 Sergei Loznitsa

Loznitsa was the first-ever Ukrainian filmmaker to compete for Cannes' Palme d'Or, making his feature debut My Joy in 2010. A road movie was about a truck driver who takes a wrong turn into the dark side of Russian countryside. The film was followed by In the Fog, which premiered in the competition of the 65th Festival de Cannes in May 2012, where it was awarded FIPRESCI prize.

Loznitsa’s feature-length documentary film Maidan, dedicated to the anti-government protests in Ukraine, was premiered in 2014 at the Festival de Cannes, out of Competition. Sergei Loznitsa describes his film as an "epic" portrait of the Kyiv protests that led to the ousting of the country's president, Viktor Yanukovych.

"I shot the first 45 minutes with my camera. And after that, I met the cameraman three times. I explained to him a little bit, and he shot during the day and came to me, and he understood very quickly what I needed. Because it’s a very, very concrete task. After that, he sent me all the material, and I step by step said, “This is good, this is good, this is not” and so on. A hundred hours [of material]," 
said Loznitsa. 

At Venice festival in 2015, Sergei Loznitsa presented The Event, a found-footage chronicle of the fall of the Soviet Union as viewed in Leningrad. Last year he finished another documentary - Austerlitz. This carefully composed monochrome film without voiceover shows scenes of modern-day tourists at Holocaust sites in German and asks troubling questions about man’s ability to consume and yet, at the same time, forget the past. Loznitsa describes Austerlitz as an effort to reckon with an existential crisis he felt on his first visit to Buchenwald. He was there doing side research for a project called “Babi Year” about mass murders in World War II Ukraine. "I realized, in front of the crematorium, that I was myself like a tourist,” he said. “And at the same time, I thought, ‘How can I be? How can I stay there?"

Now, Loznitsa is finishing his next feature film, A Gentle Creature, a story inspired by Dostoevsky, about a woman seeking justice for her incarcerated husband. He explains his method of observation which he uses as in documentary films as well in his feature films: "I never use the voiceover. I think that cinema itself tells us much more than somebody who can comment. And sometimes it works."