FOCUS - SERGEI LOZNITSA
In the case of Sergei Loznitsa’s cinema we are compelled to consider fundamental and existential issues. For Loznitsa, filmmaking is a process of understanding, a reformulation of the nature of the human world which surrounds us. We can say that from the moment such a role is assumed by any film-maker, the film becomes an “archaeological process” of understanding the world. A successful film is, in these terms, one in which the author succeeds in conveying this process of understanding through cinematic language.
A constant presence in Loznitsa's documentaries is a focus on something which is beyond what we can see on the screen —people working in a factory, sleeping in a train station, their day-to-day village life—meaning something beyond the ostensible “subject matter” mentioned in a conventional type of synopsss. In Loznitsa's films, through the position maintained by his camera, the apparently commonplace aspects of life are charged with another meaning and take on a different value.
A distance is maintained by the camera—one which does not allow the viewer to get too close to the characters, prevents them from getting to know them personally. They remain people we look at when we contemplate and meditate on the idea of mankind, or on the state of the world in general.
In a 2012 interview, Loznitsa explained this choice: “Actually, in day-to-day life, nothing happens most of the time. There are very rare moments when something dramatic happens which makes a real change in our life. The majority of films try to concentrate and to squeeze the dramatic moments in life.”
“In my films, I choose to show the other side, in which nothing happens. Blank. That's the most important thing. 99% of life is lived in this state. I prefer to shoot people in this state, for example when they are working in a factory or when people are asleep, when the mind is turned off and they just function involuntarily... “
“Understanding how things are is a passionate process which extends over a long period of time, in which you are following something and you always question what you see until you get the answer. I try to avoid dramatic moments in my movies because these draw in the viewer and they distract from a process of deeper understanding.” (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nti_gu7okdc)
Sergei Loznitsa is undoubtedly a filmmaker with a distinctive voice and vision in European and world film. Documentary cinema, cultivated to the highest intensity, is a field in which he is highly experienced. The organisers of Astra met him and came across his movies in 2004 at Message to Man—the Saint Petersburg Film Festival—and, from that point on, they have been included on a regular basis in our festival's selections.
The 2014 Astra Film Festival's Focus Loznitsa now presents his latest documentary Maidan, alongside three of his earlier works—The Train stop(2000), Landscape (2003) and Blockade (2005)—as well as a panel discussion related to the concept of “authorship” within film-making between Sergei Loznitsa and Cristi Puiu, moderated by Neil Young (film critic, UK).
Questions arising include:
* What happens when the texture of the film is composed of images recorded directly from the immediate mundanity of the world around us?
* What happens to the position of the filmaker as author engaged in an existential understanding of the world while, for example, shooting in the central square Kiev amid full revolutionary turmoil?
* Can the film-maker avoid or resist the direct expression of his/her own political stance?
* Cinema is established as a very strong medium and, throughout its history, has been misused as a dangerous means of mass manipulation, especially when the language of the film espouses and expresses a particular political position. What is the correct standpoint of a filmmaker as an author in this situation?
* What is the role of a filmmaker concerned with the controversies of a society undergoing dramatic transformation?
The panel discussion takes place after the screening of the film Maidan:
>> Thalia Hall, 11 October, 16:30 - 17:30 hrs.
Sergei Loznitsa was born on September, 5th 1964. He grew up in Kiev (Ukraine), and in 1987 graduated from the Kiev Polytechnic with a degree in Applied Mathematics. In 1987-1991 Sergei worked as a scientist at the Kiev Institute of Cybernetics, specializing in artificial intelligence research. He also worked as a translator from Japanese.
In 1997 Loznitsa graduated from the Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow, where he studied feature film making.
Sergei Loznitsa has been making documentary films since 1996, and he has directed 16 documentaries. He has received numerous international awards, including festival prizes in Karlovy Vary, Leipzig, Oberhausen, Krakow, Paris, Madrid, Toronto, Jerusalem, St-Petersburg, as well as the Russian National Film awards “Nika” and “Laurel”. Sergei Loznitsa’s montage film “BLOCKADE” (2005) is based on the archive footage of besieged Leningrad.
Loznitsa’s feature debut “MY JOY” (2010) premiered in the main competition at the Festival de Cannes, and 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.
In 2013 Sergei Loznitsa launched a film production and distribution company ATOMS & VOID.
Sergei continues to work in both documentary and feature genres. His feature length documentary “MAIDAN”, dedicated to the revolution in Ukraine, was premiered at the Festival de Cannes 2014.
Sergei is currently preparing for his next feature film, “BABI YAR” which will narrate the events that took place in Kiev in the beginning of Nazi occupation.
Today We Are Going To Build A House (documentary, 1996, 28 min)
Life, Autumn (documentary, 1998, 34 min)
The Train Stop (documentary, 2000, 25 min)
Settlement (documentary, 2001, 80 min)
Portrait (documentary, 2002, 28 min)
Landscape (documentary, 2003, 60 min)
Factory (documentary, 2004, 30 min)
Blockade (documentary, 2005, 52 min)
Artel (documentary, 2006, 30 min)
Revue (documentary, 2008, 83 min)
Northern Light (documentary, 2008, 52 min)
My Joy (feature, 2010, 127 min)
In the fog (feature, 2012, 128 min)
O Milagre de Santo António (documentary, 2012, 40 min)
Letter (documentary, 2013, 20 min)
Reflections/Bridges of Sarajevo (documentary, 2014, 17 min)
Maidan (documentary, 2014, 133 min)
The Old Jewish Cemetery (documentary, 2014, 20 min)
Director / Screenwriter
Cristi Puiu was born on 3rd of April 1967 and is a Romanian film director and screenwriter. Puiu's debut as a director was in 2001 with the low budget road movie Stuff and Dough (Marfa şi Banii) starring Alexandru Papadopol and Dragoş Bucur. The film received several awards in international film festivals and competed in the Quinzaines des Realisateurs section of the Cannes Film Festival. Some critics say that this is the film that started the Romanian New Wave in cinema. He continued with a short film, Cigarettes and Coffee (Un cartuş de Kent şi un pachet de cafea) (2004), which was awarded the Golden Bear for best short film at the 2004 Berlin International Film Festival.
His second film, The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu (Moartea domnului Lăzărescu) (2005), features the drama of an old man who is carried by an ambulance from hospital to hospital all night long, as doctors keep refusing to treat him and send him away. The film was a critical success, being awarded the Prix Un Certain Regard at theCannes Film Festival and numerous awards at other international film festivals. The year 2006 brought 47 prizes for his film The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu (Moartea domnului Lăzărescu) (2005), several nominations in the American Critics' top ten and in French magazines such as Telerama and Les Inrockuptibles.
Screenwriter - Cristi Puiu co-wrote the screenplays of both of his feature films Stuff and Dough (2001) and The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu (2005) with Romanian writer Răzvan Radulescu. His short film Cigarettes and Coffee (2004) was also written by him. Also in collaboration with Răzvan Radulescu, Cristi Puiu wrote the screenplay for Niki and Flo for Lucian Pintilie, one of the most important Romanian directors. In 2005 German director Didi Danquart based the movie Offset on a script written by Puiu.
- The Mansion (TBA)
- Bridges of Sarajevo, 2010
- Aurora, 2010
- The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu, 2005
- Cigarettes and Coffee, short, 2004
- Stuff and Dough, 2001
Film critic / Director
Easington-born, Sunderland-based Neil Young (March 5, 1971-) boasts an unorthodox background for a professional film-critic, having been employed as an official Handicapper in British flat horse-racing for 15 seasons from 1996 to 2011. Originally trained as a news reporter, he was, however, constantly writing throughout this period, initially on soccer for fan-magazine A Love Supreme and then somewhat belatedly turning his hand to film-reviews. In 2000 at the age of 29 he wrote his first reviews for the website Jigsaw Lounge (which he co-founded with Adam Maxwell), then on a paid basis for City Life in Manchester, The Independent and Time Out, both in London.
Contributed to: The Hollywood Reporter, Time Out London, The Independent, Jigsaw Lounge, A Love Supreme, Tribune, IndieWire, Sight & Sound, Mubi Notebook, BBC Radio, City Life, KINO!
In addition to his cinema-related journalism, he has directed a pair of mid-length experimental documentaries (Rostropovich at Tsukiji and Superflex November, both 2008) and works as a programmer and consultant for several European festivals including the Viennale. Since 2011 he has been Co-Director of the Bradford International Film Festival at the UK's National Media Museum. In 2013, he served on the jury of the Semaine de la Critique at Cannes. In 2013, he served on the jury of the Semaine de la Critique at Cannes.