In 1991, a group of eight high-ranking Soviet officials staged a coup in attempt to wrestle power from President Mikhail Gorbachev, whose reforms are set to spell the end of the USSR. As Gorbachev was detained, the coup leaders seized television and radio stations—playing nothing but communist declaration of emergency and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Twenty-some years later, Loznitsa edited footage from eight cameramen in then Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) during those three disquieting days into this fly-on-the-wall documentary (except there are few literal walls but plenty of open space). Scenes of public demonstrations and impromptu roadblocks will be undoubtedly familiar to the Hong Kong audience. Eagle-eyed viewers will even spot a young Vladimir Putin for a short second. Although this short but momentous event became the last nail in the coffin for the former communist superpower, one can sense that the film shows little interest in painting a fist-pumping inspirational tale of revolution. The measured black-and-white images present the desperate desire of the people for a democratic Russia. But history and current events have painfully reminded us that the dark night is far from over, and the fight must go on.
Best Documentary Film, Ann Arbor Film Festival 2016
Best Documentary, White Elephant, Russian Guild of Film Critics 2016
Born in Baranovici (USSR) and grew up in Kiev, Ukraine. After graduation from Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Applied Mathematics in 1987, he studied feature filmmaking at the Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow and graduated in 1997. He has been making films since 1996, and by now he has directed beyond 20 award-winning documentaries and 4 fiction films. His feature debut My Joy (2010) premiered in the main competition at the Festival de Cannes, and was followed by the feature film In the Fog (2012), which was awarded FIPRESCI prize at the same festival. His documentary Maidan (2014) had its world premiere at a Séance Special of Cannes Film Festival. In 2017, he presented his third feature A Gentle Creature (2017) in the competition of the Cannes Film Festival, and in the next year he was awarded Best Directing of the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes Film Festival for his fourth feature film Donbass (2018). His other feature-length documentaries, The Event (2015), The Trial (2018) and State Funeral (2019) were presented at the Special Screenings of the Venice Film Festival. He founded a film production company ATOMS & VOID in 2013. Sergei Loznitsa continues to work both in documentary and feature genres.