Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa follows his monumental documentary Maïdan with this found-footage epic vividly recalling popular optimism at the failed coup of August 1991 and the fall of the Soviet Union.
Watching Sergei Loznitsa’s montage of newsreel film shot during the massive public rallies against the coup that attempted to roll back Perestroika in 1991, you can only wonder how these hopeful protesters have fared in the 25 years since. As the cameras of the Leningrad Documentary Film Studio scrutinise the faces gathered in the streets and squares of the city, we first see alarm and confusion. Media remains entrenched in the apparatus of state; news of the crisis in Moscow is hard to come by. Wild rumours fly, but as the nature of the ‘event’ becomes known we see thousands emboldened in their determination to see democratic principles prevail. Amongst the fresh ideals expressed by the many public speakers: that Russia will cease to be ‘big brother’ to the other states of the Federation and become a loving sister. With hindsight, the Kremlin’s aborted putsch can be seen as the Soviet Union’s last hurrah. But have the forces that opposed it been consigned just as readily to the past? Bearing a remarkable resemblance to his own documentation of Maïdan (NZIFF14), Loznitsa’s street-level immersion in an intensely vital moment of optimism invests history with potent emotion.