Sunday, 3 August 2014

NZIFF Film Review: "Maidan" (2014).





For my eleventh entry for NZIFF, I have watched the unnerving and controversial documentary, Maidan. Directed by Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, the film takes a critical look at the Ukraine Maidan crisis taking place from December 2013 to February 2014 in Kiev's Maidan Nezalezhnosti (aka Independence Square), and its coverage in the news media.

The Euromaidan (Євромайдан, Yevromaidan) is a wave of ongoing demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, which began on the night of 21 November 2013 with very large public protests demanding closer European integration. The scope of the protests evolved over subsequent months, beginning on 30th November, culminating in the resignation of President Yanukovych and his government on 22nd February 2014. Thus ending the entire movement on 23rd February. Protesters also have stated they joined because of the dispersal of protesters on 30 November and "a will to change life in Ukraine". By 25 January 2014 the protests had been fueled by the perception of widespread government corruption, abuse of power, and violation of human rights in Ukraine.

Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa's film harkens back to the heroic, journalistic roots of documentary filmmaking and yet it feels ineffably dull and formally slow-paced. It's a tiny movie that records a miraculous moment in his nation's history. Comprised of footage shot over months from December 2013 to February 2014 in Kiev's Maidan Nezalezhnosti (aka Independence Square) which was ground zero for the revolution that eventually blew Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich out of the country, it serves as both an unvarnished record of what happened and a stylized, almost abstract meditation on crowds, movement and noise. Throughout the film, chunks of explanatory text (in English) on a black screen periodically provide the datelines and subheadings necessary to understand the basic of what's seen on screen. Unsurprisingly, things heat up after the government passes the Anti-Protest Laws in January 2014, and running battles break out between the protestors and the military police. Loznitsa and his crew stand steadfast in every sense. Balancing this thick-of-it immediacy, there are also some stunning yet painfully boring high long-distance shots. However these moments of realism never trivialize the bloodshed and tragedy of the events recorded here; instead they enhance the poignancy of the film, creating both a literal and metaphoric sense of distance that underscores that this was history in the making.

In conclusion, extremely focused on its indictment of the Ukrainian government, but Maidan is not worth watching due to this painfully slow pace and calls itself a "documentary" by editing random piles of footages. It's unnerving (in a bad way), not at all stimulating, and less likely to provoke anger and sorrow on both political sides. Loznitsa brings a dull impact to familiar material by the way he marshals his images. His Maidan polemic didn't exactly give millions of frustrated liberals exactly what they needed to hear this year and has and/or will infuriate just about everyone else (including me!).

Simon says Maidan receives:


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