Archival documentary on Babyn Yar massacre selected to premiere at Cannes Film Festival

June 4, 2021 by J-Wire News Service
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The Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa’s film “Babi Yar. Context” has been selected to premiere at July’s Cannes Film Festival.

Sergei Loznita

The 120 minutes long film is based entirely on archival footage uncovered by Loznitsa, which depicts the events leading up to and the aftermath of the Babyn Yar massacre in September 1941, the largest single massacre of the Holocaust.

“Babi Yar. Context” is Loznitsa’s seventh film to be presented in the Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival. It will be screened in the Séance Speciale section of the Festival. The film, which includes previously unseen eye-witness testimony, immerses the viewer in the period and reconstructs the context in which the Babyn Yar tragedy unfolded.

Sergei Loznitsa said: Just as other Holocaust crimes, the tragedy of Babyn Yar is almost devoid of authentic visual representation – Nazi authorities banned photo and film cameras from the places of mass executions. However, it is possible to reconstruct its historical context through archive footage, documenting the years of German occupation of Ukraine. My aim is to plunge the spectator into the atmosphere of the time.”

He added: I’m deeply grateful to Thierry Fremaux [Director of the Cannes Film Festival] for his support and appreciation of my work! It’s a great honour and a great pleasure to be in Cannes again and, most importantly, it’s an opportunity to share this urgently relevant story. ‘Babi Yar. Context.’ is not a film about our past, it’s about our present and, possibly, about our future.”

33,771 Jewish victims were shot at the Babyn Yar ravine by the Nazis during just two days, 29 and 30 September 1941. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians, Roma, the mentally ill and others were shot thereafter at Babyn Yar throughout the Nazi occupation of Kyiv. The estimated number of victims murdered at Babyn Yar is around 100,000, making it Europe’s largest mass grave.

“Babi Yar. Context” is produced by Atoms & Void with the support of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Foundation, which is responsible for the development of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC). The Centre is overseeing development of the Babyn Yar memorial complex, which will include twelve buildings and will stretch over an area of 150 hectares, making it one of the world’s largest Holocaust memorial centres.

Ilya Khrzhanovsky, BYHMC’s Artistic Director said: Sergei Loznitsa’s film, ‘Babi Yar. Context’… makes a strong impression; both emotional and artistic. This film is an opportunity to look at the events of  World War II, located at a distance of 80 years from us, as an event of today. … what we see is a chronicle shot by different cameramen, including German cameramen-propagandists and Soviet cinematographers. Unique shots, which no one has seen before, give a new opportunity to look at the tragic events of that time. The ‘Babi Yar. Context’ film shows precisely the context in which tragedies such as Babyn Yar can occur. This is a context that we must avoid forever.”

The premiere of “Babi Yar. Context” at July’s Cannes Film festival will come just two months before the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre. BYHMC’s commemorations of the anniversary are taking place throughout the year and will culminate in an international event including global leaders in September.

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