Ukraine protest film in Cannes has "cast of thousands"

Thu May 22, 2014 12:12pm EDT
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By Will Russell

CANNES France (Reuters) - Seeing people shot down as the insurrection in Kiev's Maidan square built to a climax might not be everyone's idea of a movie night out, but watching it filmed on the epic scale of Russian director Sergei Eisenstein's films is breathtaking.

That is exactly what the Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa had in mind for his documentary film "Maidan", screened this week at the Cannes International Film Festival.

His film is a fly-on-the-wall view of the Maidan uprising, which started last year and led to President Viktor Yanukovich fleeing the country in February. It has a cast of thousands - the very people who protested in the square day after day, week after week, to oust the Russian-backed Yanukovich.

Loznitsa, whose previous feature films have dealt with fictionalized but gritty topics such as a man during World War Two being accused of collaborating with the Germans, said his inspiration for "Maidan" came from "Strike" by Eisenstein, the Soviet director best known for his epic "Battleship Potemkin" which practically invented the term "cast of thousands".

"The question is how I created drama. Well, there is a great example that exists in our culture, in the culture of Russian cinema, and it’s the film 'Strike' by Eisenstein, where you have these great masses of people in action," Loznitsa told Reuters.

Loznitsa's film takes more than two hours to play out and it has its longeurs, especially at the beginning when the protest in Kiev's main square against Yanukovich's decision to scrap an association agreement with the European Union assumed a lighthearted, carnival atmosphere.

People are shown cooking huge vats of food, carrying around trays of tea to the huge crowd and listening to protest songs.

Anti-government speeches blasted from a central stage over a massive sound system can be heard constantly on the soundtrack but the people making those speeches are almost never seen, which Loznitsa said was by design.   Continued...

Director Sergei Loznitsa poses during a photocall for the film "V Tumane", in competition at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, May 25, 2012.    REUTERS/Vincent Kessler /Files