SLEEPER OF THE WEEK: ‘MAIDAN’

Max O'Connell, www.blogs.indiewire.com, 19.12.2014

The new film “Maidan” documents the inside of a protest, from peaceful beginnings to violent ends.

Sleeper of the Week takes a film that only few critics have seen and shines some light on it.

Sergei Loznitsa’s films “My Joy” and “In the Fog” have been a couple of sober, powerful dramas, and Loznitsa earned Palme D’Or nominations for both. But Loznitsa first came to attention as a documentary filmmaker, and his latest, “Maidan” returns him to that territory. The film concerns the protests in Kiev against Ukranian President Yanukovych in winter 2013-2014.

Loznitsa’s film takes a steady gaze at the progression of an anti-authoritarian protest, from peaceful beginnings to violence between police and protesters. The director relies primarily on unbroken master shots, making the only point where the camera moves – when a press area his hit with tear gas – all the more startling and powerful. And while it’s often harrowing stuff, it’s a film that roots its protests in patriotism and hope that things will one day get better for those protesting.

More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:

Joe Bendel, Libertas Film Magazine

Arguably, no other film so powerfully conveys the spirit of collective action and a sense of individuals dedicating themselves to a larger cause. There are many long takes and wide angle crowd shots, but Loznitsa and his fellow cameraman Serhiy Stefan Stetsenko capture the tenor of the time quite viscerally. Read more.

Nikola Grozdanovic, The Playlist

It’s a potent depiction of history in the now and open-heart surgery of a country in peril, which makes Maidan the most humanitarian film to come out of Cannes this year. If you have the patience to play the role of silent witness for the full two hours, Maidan is a rewarding experience and an alarmingly important wake-up call for those still in the dark about one of today’s most critical situations.

More thoughts from the web:

Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice

Loznitsa’s formal approach is central to Maidan’s impact: He anchors his camera and takes in an establishing-shot expanse, holding the image often for minutes at a time. We hear ambient sound, over layers of human action, as Ukrainians of all ages — burly dads, hipster punks, tots, grandmas — mill about, dole out food, cheer, and break into song. (The national anthem is on everyone’s lips, forgivably, but it’s hard to forget the infectious protest bopper who bids the president “ciao, ciao, ciao!”) It’s a vision of a people’s utopia, built out of social warmth and laureled with fireworks.

Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times

But the point may be that all ideologies have dissolved into a collective, a notion that grows poignant once the government passes restrictions, and acrackdown begins. Suddenly, the fireworks rise above actual fires. There are riot shields, Molotov cocktails and cries for medical help. Camera phones illuminate a vigil. “Maidan” is a film of scale and immediacy, finding artistry, for better or worse, in bearing witness.

Jay Weissberg, Variety

In contrast with most documentaries made in the wake of an historic event, “Maidan” will last beyond the current Ukrainian upheaval to stand as compelling witness and a model response to a seminal moment too fresh to be fully processed. Going back to his nonfiction roots, Kiev-raised helmer Sergei Loznitsa uses almost exclusively fixed master shots filmed from December 2013 to February 2014, capturing in an emotionally gripping, minimalist way the protest’s trajectory from euphoric to besieged.