debate. “Ukrainian Film Academy Explains Decision to Expel Sergei Loznitsa”. And the director’s answer – Against

Martin Blaney

Eviction decision [1] Director Sergei Loznitsa of the Ukrainian Film Academy “was directly connected to the director’s stories about Ukraine,” according to Anna Machuh, executive director of the Academy and the Odessa International Film Festival.

Sergei Loznitsa announced on Saturday (March 19) that he had been expelled from the organization, in part for expressing support for dissident Russian filmmakers.

Explaining the expulsion, Anna Machukh said: “From the very beginning of Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine, we have been tirelessly calling on the global film community to boycott Russian cinema. But Sergei Loznitsa publicly opposes this, thereby denying the collective responsibility of the Russians for the war that their country unleashed in Ukraine.”

She added that Loznitsa “often resorted to speculation about Ukrainian-Russian relations”, which is an “unacceptable” position and “contradicts the values ​​of the Ukrainian Film Academy.”

The Academy stated that “the countries of Europe and the whole world should have a complete and unambiguous picture of what the aggressor country is doing in Ukraine. Therefore, every Ukrainian is now the ambassador of his country.”

“Special responsibility now falls on well-known foreign specialists in the creative industries. Their position must be clear and unequivocal.”

The Academy adds that Loznica has “repeatedly stressed that he considers himself a cosmopolitan, a ‘man of the world’.” However, today, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence, the key concept in the rhetoric of every Ukrainian should be his national identity.

Sergey Loznitsa is “delighted”

In a statement released on Saturday evening [voir sa lettre ci-dessous] In response to the Academy’s decision, Loznica said he was “surprised” to read that he had been expelled for being “cosmopolitan”.

He said the term only acquired a negative connotation during Stalin’s anti-Semitic campaign between 1948 and 1953.

“In speaking out against cosmopolitanism, members of the Ukrainian Academy are using the same discourse invented by Stalin, based on hatred, the denial of freedom of speech, the defense of collective guilt and the prohibition of any manifestation of individualism and individual choice,” he said.

He added that the emphasis on “national identity” is akin to Nazism and is “a gift to the Kremlin’s propagandists.”

He also rejected the academy’s call to the world community that it should not consider him a representative of the Ukrainian cultural sphere. “Never in my life have I represented a community, a group, an association, or a ‘sphere’,” Sergei Loznitsa wrote. “Everything I say and do has always been and always will be my own statements and actions. […] I am and always will be a Ukrainian director,” he concluded.

A regular visitor to Cannes, Sergei Loznitsa has dedicated his career to studying the history and politics of Ukraine and the entire region. His film Donbass The 2018 Cannes Director’s Award-winning Uncertain Attitude captured the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that heralds the current all-out invasion of Russia. (The article was published on ScreenDaily, March 21, 2022; reaction translation Against)

Martin BlaneyBritish journalist and film critic for Screen International in Germany, Switzerland and Austria since the 1990s, and jury member at numerous international film festivals.

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[1] Great Russian chauvinism structures Putin’s historical narrative, designed, among other things, to justify the invasion of Ukraine. The nationalism aggravated in Ukrainian circles, which has long been present, including in right-wing and ultra-right formations, is the obverse of the medal, of course, engraved with a whole story. As such, it can only be an obstacle to the social dynamics of the ongoing struggle for the right to self-determination of the people of Ukraine; a battle that materializes today in the multiple resistance of the army of the Putin regime. At the same time, the controversy between Serhiy Loznitsa and the Ukrainian Film Academy is far from anecdotal. Expressions of Russophobia in the cultural field of Europe are also a democratic regression. (ed.)

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Open letter of Sergey Loznitsa about exclusion from the Ukrainian Film Academy

Since yesterday evening I have been receiving letters and calls from friends and colleagues from all over the world expressing their surprise and demanding an explanation for what happened to the Ukrainian Film Academy. I am also trying to understand.

On February 27, 2022, I released the following statement:

“The war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine is a suicidal and senseless act that will inevitably lead to the collapse of the criminal Russian regime. The whole world has witnessed the battle of Good and Evil, Truth and Falsehood, a battle of biblical proportions. Ukraine will win! I am outraged by the indecisiveness and caution of governments, public organizations and citizens who could help Ukraine not only with words, but also with quick and decisive actions. The humanitarian tragedy unfolding before our eyes is largely caused by the hypocritical policy aimed at appeasing the monster, the policy of economic exchanges with Russia. For decades, the Western world has turned its back on the crimes committed by the Russian regime in Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, Donbass, other parts of Europe and the world, and made compromises based on a policy of “pragmatism”. The time has come for the world community to wake up, realize what is happening and crush the Russian monster!”

I left the European Film Academy because their initial statement, released a few days after the start of the war, was too neutral, harsh and conformist in relation to Russian aggression. They did not even consider it possible to call this war a war.

In recent days, I have been explaining to various publications and journalists from Europe and the United States the causes and essence of the unleashed war, called on the world to join the fight against Russian aggression, participated in the screenings of my films Donbass as well as Maidan, raise funds to help Ukraine; I help to take people out of Ukraine and support refugees.

In the tragic situation of the war, it seems to me that one should try to maintain common sense. I am against the boycott of those of my colleagues, Russian filmmakers, who spoke out and continue to speak out against the crimes of the Putin regime.

I was surprised to read the statement of the Ukrainian Film Academy that I was expelled because of my cosmopolitanism. Cosmopolitan means “citizen of the world” in Greek. The first person to declare himself a cosmopolitan was the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes. The Stoic philosopher Zeno, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, the Enlightenment philosophers Voltaire, Diderot, Hume, and Jefferson called themselves cosmopolitans.

Since the 18th century, a “cosmopolitan” has been a person who is open to everything new and free from cultural, religious and political prejudices. Only in the era of late Stalinism, during the anti-Semitic campaign unleashed by Stalin in 1948-1953, did this word acquire a negative connotation in the discourse of Soviet propaganda.

Rising against “cosmopolitanism”, Ukrainian “academicians” today use this Stalinist discourse based on hatred, rejection of dissent, the assertion of collective guilt and the prohibition of any manifestation of free choice of the individual. Or are they against the philosophical tradition of Diogenes, Zeno, Kant and Voltaire? Are they against those values ​​that underlie the culture and society of modern Europe, for which, as they say, they are nostalgic? I am compelled to dwell on the semantics of the term “cosmopolitan” because, outside the former Soviet empire, the arguments of the “academicians” are understandable only to Sovietologists.

Every year teachers of the Russian language from the University of Nantes (France) organize a festival of films from countries formed after the collapse of the USSR. I learned about this festival, which is funded by the university, from a letter from the Ukrainian Film Academy. Today I contacted the organizers of the festival and found out that the “academy” and representatives of the Ukrainian cultural establishment support the decision to hold the festival in principle, but they only ask to replace all Russian films with Ukrainian ones. Literally: “… we propose to replace all films in the program with films of Ukrainian production or about Ukraine, thereby separating (the letter says “delimitation”) our culture from Russian cinema…”

When the festival organizers refused to do so, they were attacked and insulted by Ukrainian cultural figures. The motto of the festival is “Entre Lviv et l’Oural”, which means “Between Lviv and the Urals”, and not “From Lviv to the Urals”, as the “academicians” translated from French. The screenings of the festival are of a charitable nature: all the funds raised will be donated to the Red Cross for emergency assistance to Ukraine. This is stated on the website of the festival. The festival is not supported by any Russian organization.

“Today, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence, the key concept in the rhetoric of every Ukrainian should be his national identity,” Ukrainian “academicians” write. Not a civic position, not the desire to unite all sane and freedom-loving people in the fight against Russian aggression, not the international desire of all democratic countries to win this war, but “national identity”. Unfortunately, this is Nazism. A gift to the Kremlin propaganda from the Ukrainian Film Academy.

In their appeal, the Ukrainian “film academics” ask the world community “not to consider me a representative of the Ukrainian cultural sphere.” Never in my life have I represented any community, group, association or field. Everything I said and did was and remains my personal word and deed.

I have always been and remain a Ukrainian director.
I hope we all keep our common sense during this tragic time. (Sergey Loznitsa, March 19, 2022)

(Text published on the website e-flux.com, March 20, 2022; translation Against)

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