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Stop and Look: Three Films by Sergei Loznitsa

Stop and Look: Three Films by Sergei Loznitsa

Blockade, by Sergei Loznitsa

Sergei Loznitsa in person! LA premieres! 


The Oscars are tomorrow in Hollywood: Allow extra time for road closures (especially on Hollywood & Highland)

Sergei Loznitsa is one of the most heralded filmmakers in Europe, but is still little known in America.  Generously supported by the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, Filmforum presents Loznitsa in Los Angeles for his first time, for in-person screenings at Filmforum, UCLA, Cal Arts, and Cinefamily.  This is the first night of the series, featuring the award-winning short films The Train Station and The Letter, followed by the remarkable hour-long BlockadeThe Train Station is a portrait of a quiet train station and the people waiting there; The Letter is an unnerving look at a few residents of a mental asylum.  Blockade, anticipating his film The Event (screening next Wednesday at Cinefamily), re-edits film shot during the WWII blockade of Leningrad.  Utilizing the material shot by a wide range of camera people trapped in the suffering city, Loznitsa finds a new poetry and eloquence, giving a new generation access to events rarely discussed.

Educated originally in mathematics, Loznitsa redirected his life to filmmaking after the fall of the Soviet Union, and has been producing a series of documentaries since the mid-1990s looking at life in a wide array of places and events: portraits of small towns, fishing communities in Siberia, recoveries of political unrest, tourists in Nazi concentration camps. He’s been the subject of a retrospective at the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA), often considered the leading doc festival in Europe.  In recent years he has been working in scripted narrative films as well, making two films that have premiered at Cannes.  

Interview with Loznitsa in Variety:

Coming up in the series:

Monday Feb 27, 7:30 - The End(s) of Remembrance: Two Films on Holocaust Memory, by Sergei Loznitsa, The Old Jewish Cemetery and Austerlitz, at the James Bridges Theatre at UCLA, free!

Tuesday Feb 28, 7:00 pm – Maidan, at the Cal Arts Bijou Theatre, free!

Wednesday March 1, 7:30 pm – The Event, at Cinefamily

In addition to the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, Filmforum thanks the following entities for their support of this series: the UCLA Department of World Arts and Culture/Dance; the UCLA Center of European and Russia Studies; the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television; the UCLA Department of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Languages and Cultures; Cal Arts; Cinefamily; and the International Documentary Association.

Sergei Loznitsa was born September 5th, 1964 in the city of Baranovitchi, in Belarus. At that time Belarus was part of the Soviet Union. Later Loznitsa’s family moved to Kiev, Ukraine, where Loznitsa finished high school. 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 filmmaking.

Sergei Loznitsa has been making documentary films since 1996, and he has directed 18 award-winning documentaries. 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”, depicting the Ukrainian revolution of 2013/2014 was also premiered at the Festival de Cannes. His latest feature-length documentary AUSTERLITZ looks at tourists negotiating the traumatic sites of Nazi concentration camps.  Loznitsa is currently producing his next feature film, “BABI YAR” which will narrate the events that took place in Kiev during the first months of Nazi occupation of the USSR.

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The Train Station

The Train Station

2000, b/w, mono, 35mm, 25 min. (screening digitally)

Director - Sergei Loznitsa; Cameraman - Pavel Kostomarov; Sound designer - Alexander Zakarjewskiy

Set inside an isolated train depot, The Train Station is one of Sergei Loznitsa's most haunting films. It is also one of his most pointed social critiques.
In this film, we are brought to a remote train station deep in the Russian woods. It's nighttime. In the distance, we hear the clatter of locomotives. The station, a small wooden building, sits silently, surrounded only by snow and train tracks.
Inside, everyone is asleep. The camera pans slowly over the sleeping bodies. Some are leaning backwards, others are hunched over. Occasionally, someone moves a hand, coughs, turns. At one point, an elderly woman seems to wake up, only to look around and fall back into slumber.
Without narration, and bathed in a ghostly light, the film is in its own serene way, gripping… and frightening. Why is everyone asleep? What is everyone waiting for? In published interviews, Loznitsa has described the film as a metaphor for what people in Russia are feeling today, a sense of "falling out of time." Awards include: 'Silber Taube' · Leipzig International Documentary Film Festival, Gemany, 2000;  Grand Prix · International Film Festival in Lyon, France, 2001; Best Documentary · 'Golden laurel' National documentary film prix, Russia, 2000

The Letter

2012, b/w, Dolby Digital, 35 mm, 20 min. (screening digitally)

Director - Sergei Loznitsa; Cameraman - Pavel Kostomarov; Sound designer - Vladimir Golovnitski; Production - ATOMS & VOID

A remote village in the Northwest of Russia. A mental asylum is located in an old wooden house. The place and its inhabitants seem to be untouched by civilization. In this pristine setting no articulate human voice is heard, and pain is muted.

Awards incude: Golden Dragon, The Best Short Film · Krakow Film Festival ,Poland, 2013;  PRIX EFA for the Best European Film, Krakow Film Festival, Poland, 2013; European Film Academy nomination for The Best European Short Film 2013

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2005, b/w, stereo, 35 mm, 52 min.

This movie is about the siege of Leningrad during the Second World War. There are no words, no music, only sounds and pictures of slowly dying city.

Awards include: Jury Award · International Film Festival 'Stalker' in Moskau, Russia, 2005; Grand Prix 'Gold Dragon' · International Krakow Short Film Festival, Poland, 2006; Best Documentary Film from archive · Jerusalem International Film Festival, Israel, 2006; Grand Prix for Best Dokumentary Film · Film Festival Viborg, Russia, 2006 · Best Documentary Film · Open Documentary Film Festival 'Russia' , Ekaterinburg, Russia, 2006; Arie&Bozena Zweig Innovation Award · Chicago International Documentary Festival, 2007

“This footage, shown at the end of the film, was shot in 1946 and comes from a documentary called 'The People's Verdict', Loznitsa said. It shows German prisoners of war, a detail that is secondary in the director's view. 'Only 60 years ago, we gathered on the street and watched other people being hanged', he commented. 'On the one hand, you can understand people, since they lived through something that -- I don't know -- reconciled them to such a fact.”· Anna Malpas, Moscow Time

“Told without voiceover, explanatory subtitles or any other contextualizing material, Russian docu 'Blockade' looks unlikely to show up on the History Channel as it stands now. Nevertheless, this absorbing account of the 900-day siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) during WWII, told entirely through re-edited archive footage with freshly made sound, reps poignant viewing as it focuses on the daily lives of the city's inhabitants. Pic by experienced helmer Sergei Loznitsa ('Landscape') should soon besiege fests and upmarket cablers. Culled from newsreel material, pic's visuals are grouped thematically to show different aspects of the Leningrad Blockade. Shots of burning and later devastated buildings are backed by a soundtrack of sirens and raging flames. Sounds of soft weeping are matched to imagery of mass graves, which still have power to shock. Later on, dead, shrouded bodies are seen littering the streets, but most of the pedestrians, by this point so inured to the sight, simply walk past. Match between sound and image is concise but not too literal, and editing builds the pace well toward its climax, when the city is finally liberated and the war ends.” Leslie Felperin, Variety