The Faces of Russian Peasants: Two Films by Sergei Loznitsa
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 is bringing Loznitsa to Los Angeles for his first time in late February, for in-person screenings at Filmforum, UCLA, Cal Arts, and Cinefamily. To lead up to Loznitsa’s visit, Filmforum presents the Los Angeles premieres of two of his award-winning films Portrait and Landscape. These highly structured, gentle, painterly looks at Russian peasants might well resonate for fans of James Benning, Chantal Akerman, or Sergei Dvortsevoy. Utterly absorbing and gorgeous works.
Educated originally in mathematics, Loznitsa moved 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 Documentary Festival of Amsterdam, 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.
An extended discussion of these two films: “Menacing Peasants,” by Moritz Pfeifer, East European Film Bulletin, April 27, 2012, https://eefb.org/archive/april-2012/goeast-2012/loznitsa-2-peasant-documentaries/
Interview with Loznitsa in Variety: http://variety.com/2016/film/festivals/sergei-loznitsa-art-life-new-film-a-gentle-creature-idfa-1201923368
Tickets: $10 general; $6 for students/seniors; free for Filmforum members. Available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at http://bpt.me/2853621 or at the door.
For more information: www.lafilmforum.org or 323-377-7238
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. http://loznitsa.com
2002, 28 min., b/w, mono, 35 mm
This movie is a collection of still pictures of residents of Russian countryside. Not a single word. Only long look into the camera. Landscape. Flow of time.
Awards include Grand Prix · Oberhausen International Film Festival, Gemany, 2003; 'Silber Taube' · Leipzig International Documentary Film Festival, Gemany, 2002; Best Documentary · "Les Ecran documentaries" Internetional Film Festival, Paris, France, 2003
“In Portrait we see whole body portraits simulating still life photographs. Sometimes these photographic stagings have a comical effect. For example when a man cuts wood without moving his saw in one scene, or when a woman stands paralyzed in the middle of the road pushing a cart in another. The still-life imitations in Portraits are archival. Frame after frame we see peasants of an indeterminable epoch, looking back at us as if from out of a photo album. These people are almost like objects, statues maybe, of things we love but for which we no longer have a use, whose customs might have been important once but no longer affect us. Without wanting to appear cynical, there is a striking similarity of these these pictures with the archival photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher.” - Moritz Pfeifer, “Menacing Peasants,” East European Film Bulletin, April 27, 2012, https://eefb.org/archive/april-2012/goeast-2012/loznitsa-2-peasant-documentaries/
2003, Russia, color, sound, 35mm, 60 min.
Cinematographer: Pavel Kostomarov
“Less is more for Landscape, an austere but absorbing formalist exercise consisting entirely of left-to-right tracking shots depicting people waiting for a bus in the Russian town of Okulovka” (Variety).
“Portrait seems to be about the disappearance of rural life, and it documents this disappearance in a distanced, quasi-scientific way. Landscape is exactly the opposite. It is not a film about the decline of an objective occurrence, but about the way in which that occurrence is symbolically perceived. The fascination for rustic hideousness in Landscapes seems to be part of a social imagination triggered by Russia’s socioeconomic development since the mid 1990s. Historically, the image of menacing peasants appears when social order changes, when the poor from the hinterlands mingle with the lives of wealthy urbanites.” - Moritz Pfeifer, “Menacing Peasants,” East European Film Bulletin, April 27, 2012, https://eefb.org/archive/april-2012/goeast-2012/loznitsa-2-peasant-documentaries/