Documentary maker and feature film director Sergei Loznitsa rises above current political issues and looks at the nature of the popular uprising as a social, cultural and philosophical phenomenon. Maidan is a powerful mix of heroic struggle, terror, courage, aspiration, solidarity, folk culture, passion and self-sacrifice which combines classical film making style and documentary urgency.
Maidan came to be after Loznitsa visited Kiev, Ukraine, during the winter of 2013/14; feeling the urgency in the air, the director stayed to chronicle the civil uprising against the regime of president Yanukovych which took place in the city. The film follows the progress of the revolution: from the euphoric peaceful rallies involving half a million people in the Maidan square, to the bloody street battles between the protestors and riot police.
The film begins with solidarity, camaraderie and an authentic spirit of freedom as the director documents volunteers working together in harmony, zealously guarding Maidan, preparing food for the masses, providing medical assistance and dozens of amateur singers and poets performing on the stage of Maidan. The film centres upon the night of 19 December, St Nicholas’s feast, which becomes something of a medieval folk carnival – the free spirit of the nation, awakening from a long sleep.
To begin with there is joy: the Ukrainian sense of humour laughing at incompetent and corrupt politicians rather than hating them. However, as the film reaches mid-January the mood has changed: it is a battle, blood is shed and the peaceful protest against a corrupt president has transformed into a fight against an evil regime.
For the first time, the director followed events as they were unfolding; there was no time to plan the film, instead Loznitsa nerve-wrackingly watched, filmed and edited as the revolution progressed. To create structure, the film is divided into prologue, celebration, battle and post-scriptum; the audience is transported to Maidan and forced to experience 90 days of revolution, in the order that they unfolded. There is no narrative or voice-over, and the soundtrack is that of revolution era Maidan.
Maidan, Sergei Loznitsa (2015). In UK Cinemas 20 February.
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