Home News Sergei Loznitsa excluded from Ukrainian Film Academy; Loznitsa posts response

Sergei Loznitsa excluded from Ukrainian Film Academy; Loznitsa posts response

Copyright: Benedikt Reiter (Creative Commons licence)

Copyright: Benedikt Reiter (Creative Commons licence)


As outlined in a statement published March 18, the Ukrainian Film Academy has “excluded” filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa from the Academy. “We appeal to the world community with a request not to position Serhiy Loznytsa [Loznitsa] as a representative of the Ukrainian cultural sphere,” the Academy wrote. The statement adds that “the key concept in the rhetoric of every Ukrainian should be his national identity.”


Loznitsa responded on Facebook March 19, stating that the Ukrainian Film Academy Academy’s assertion on “national identity” is “a gift to Kremlin propagandists from the Ukrainian film academy.” He signed off his statement claiming that, “I am and will always be a Ukrainian filmmaker.”


The Ukrainian Film Institute statement (in full) reads as follows:

By the Board’s and the Supervisory Board of the Ukrainian Film Academy decision, Serhiy Loznytsa [Sergei Loznitsa] was excluded from the Ukrainian Film Academy.


On February 24, Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine. Ukraine is defending itself on all fronts, including the cultural one. 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.


A special responsibility now lies with creative industries specialists well known abroad. Their position must be clear and unambiguous.


Director Serhiy Loznytsa has repeatedly stressed that he considers himself a cosmopolitan, “a man of the world”. However, now, when Ukraine is struggling to defend its independence, the key concept in the rhetoric of every Ukrainian should be his national identity. There can be no compromises or halftones here.


In addition, Serhiy Loznytsa’s films have recently been included in the program of the Russian film festival in the French city of Nantes called “From Lviv to the Urals.” During the bloody full-scale war that Russia unleashed, this is entirely unacceptable.


The Ukrainian Film Academy has already called on the world film community to boycott Russian cinema. We constantly call on the whole world to distinguish between Ukrainian and Russian cultures and not to identify them. All members of the Ukrainian Film Academy must share this position and call a spade a spade, showing clarity and rigidity in their convictions.


We appeal to the world community with a request not to position Serhiy Loznytsa as a representative of the Ukrainian cultural sphere.


Loznitsa’s Facebook response (in full), posted March 19, reads: 

I was astonished to read of the Ukrainian film academy’s [sic] decision to expel me for being a cosmopolite. Translated from Greek, the word “cosmopolite” means “citizen of the world”. The first person who proclaimed himself to be a cosmopolitan was the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes. The stoic philosopher Zeno, as well as Emmanuel Kant, Voltaire, Diderot, Hume and Jefferson all considered themselves to be cosmopolitans. 


Since the 18th century the definition of a cosmopolitan has been used to describe a person open to new ideas and free from cultural, political and religious prejudices. It is only during the late Stalinist era, from the onset of the anti-semitic campaign unleashed by Stalin between 1948 and 1953, that the term acquired a negative connotation in Soviet propaganda discourse. 


By speaking out against cosmopolitanism, the Ukrainian “academy members” employ this very discourse invented by Stalin,
based on hatred, denial of freedom of speech, advocating collective guilt and forbidding any manifestations of individualism and individual choice. Or are the “academy members” simply against the values of Diogenes, Zeno, Kant and Voltaire? Are they against the values, which form the foundation of the culture and society of contemporary Europe, a place they claim they are so desperate to belong in? I feel the need to give such a detailed definition and background of the notion of “cosmopolitan”, as outside of the former Soviet empire it is only professional Sovietologists who are aware of these connotations. 


Teachers of Russian from the university of Nantes (France) hold an annual festival of films produced in the countries formed after the collapse of the USSR. The festival is financed by the university. I found out about this festival from the statement of the Ukrainian film academy [sic]. I have contacted the organisers of the festival and they informed me that the “academy members” and the Ukrainian “cultural community”, in principle, support the decision to hold the festival, only they demand that all the films in the festival’s programme are replaced by films produced in Ukraine or films about Ukraine. I quote: “…we propose to replace the films of the entire program with films produced in Ukraine or about Ukraine, thus delimiting our culture from Russian cinema…”


When the festival organisers refused to meet the demands of the “academy members” they were verbally attacked and subjected to a torrent of abuse from the Ukrainian “cultural community”. The slogan of this year’s festival is “Entre Lviv et l”Oural”, which means “Between Lviv and the Urals”. It is not “From Lviv to the Urals”, as the “academy members” erroneously translated from French. 


“Nowadays, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence with all its might, the key concept in the rhetoric of every Ukrainian should be his national identity,” – reads the message published on the Ukrainian film academy’s Facebook page. So, it is not the civil and political standpoint of every citizen of the country that matters; it is not the aspiration to unite all the freedom loving and free-thinking people of the world against the Russian aggression; it is not the creation of an international effort of all democratic countries in the world to win this war; it is the “national identity” that matters most. Unfortunately, this is Nazism. A gift to Kremlin propagandists from the Ukrainian film academy [sic]. 


The “academy members” demand that the international community “does not position me as a representative of the Ukrainian cultural sphere”. Never in my life have I represented any community, group, association or “sphere”. Everything I say and do has always been and always will be my own individual statements and actions.


I am and will always be a Ukrainian filmmaker.


Loznitsa resigned from the European Film Academy late February in protest at what he perceived to be an inadequate response on the part of EFA, commenting in an open letter how “it [EFA] was set up in 1989 in order to bury its head in the sand and to shy away from the catastrophe which is taking place in Europe.”  The European Film Academy responded March 1 adding its voice to the call for sanctions against Russia by excluding Russian films from this year’s European Film Awards. 


In a separate pro-boycott statement recently sent to Business Doc Europe, Volodymyr Voitenko, Chairman of the Board of the Union of Film Critics of Ukraine, wrote from Kyiv, after having evacuated his family from the Ukrainian capital: 

In the spring of 2014, when Russia had already invaded Crimea and dealt with the Luhansk and Donetsk people and lands, my cinematographic colleagues – actors, producers, directors – fought desperately: But who could have imagined such a thing ?! I had to answer: I never doubted it; and you know the Ukrainian history of recent centuries – always the same, blood and tears.


Yes, there was no doubt, but to become a direct victim of the expected aggression is unbearable and hopeless. Along these lines, I try to bypass emotions.


Except for one, Russian films, for all their artistic virtues, are in one way or another an imperial weapon of the “Russian world” and should be removed from showing on all world platforms – cinemas, streaming, festivals, and any other. This will be true disarmament of the bloody, ag
onizing Russian empire. 
We have in our hearts that which does not die…


In an accompanying statement, Ukrainian documentary director Serhiy Bukovsky wrote (published in part): 

I am Russian by birth, born in Bashkiria. My mother—film actress Nina Antonova, People’s Artist of Ukraine—is also from Russia. As is my father, film director Anatoly Bukovsky, who is from Balashov. All my life I have lived in Kyiv; it is my hometown. Ukraine is my Motherland. 


I don’t care how Putin departs from this world, whether it’s by a shot to the head or strangulation by a scarf. One way or another, the end is near. 


But I do care—actually I am terrified—that my cousins from Moscow sent a cheerful computer postcard to wish my mother and my wife a happy International Women’s Day on March 8, with the wishes of a peaceful sky above our heads. They, like millions of other citizens of the Russian Federation, have been brainwashed—or perhaps I should say their brains have been completely washed out. 


Billions of Putin’s dollars have been purposefully spent to do this. And the Russian cultural sphere was engaged in this work, including the cinema—”the most important of all arts,” according to Lenin. 


I know for certain that beginning in 2014, the Russian Federation has produced films focusing on the Russian troops—the heroes—coming to liberate the people of Crimea and Donbass from Ukrainian nationalists. Film actor [Mikhail] Porechenkov personally came to support the Russian army in the artificially created Lugansk People’s Republic/Donetsk People’s Republic and even practiced shooting a gun at the same time. 


14 years ago, my film crew and I created the film ‘The Living’ about the Ukrainian famine—Holodomor—of 1932–33, the genocide of the Ukrainian people committed by Russia with silent support of the majority of its people. In our extensive research, we discovered that the embassies of foreign countries informed their governments about what was happening in Ukraine. Evidence includes excerpts from the documents heard in our film in their original languages: Italian, French, Polish.


Welsh journalist Gareth Jones [1905-1935] paid with his life for telling Europe and America about this atrocity. But nobody wanted to hear it. During that time, Bernard Shaw visited the USSR. In the 1950s, Paul Robeson came to perform for Soviet youth. In more recent years, Sharon Stone was photographed with Putin.  In 2017, Oliver Stone interviewed Putin for his film Know Your Enemy. Is this not in support of Russian culture?