Sergei Loznitsa releases trailer for “Natural History of Destruction”

Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa’s latest documentary, The Natural History of Destruction, bows in the Cannes Premieres section on May 23 at the Cannes Film Festival. A year after his last feature film “Babi Yar. Context” won a Special Jury Prize at the Golden Eye Award for Best Documentary. diversity got exclusive access to the trailer of the film.

Inspired by a book by German writer WG Sebald, The Natural History of Destruction uses an unprecedented treasure trove of archival footage to reexamine the Allied strategic bombing campaign in Germany during World War II. The ruthless attacks were intended to destroy the country’s war capability and break the morale of the German people.

Loznitsa questions the morality of using civilians as a weapon of war — a pressing question as Russia’s brutal onslaught in Ukraine nears the end of its third month. “How is it still possible to use such inhumane methods of mass extermination and mass destruction of our fellow human beings? And what kind of mechanisms should we put in place to prevent this mass destruction once and for all?” he said.

Three days after Russia invaded his homeland, Loznitsa resigned from the European Film Academy, criticizing her “shameful” response to the unprovoked attack as “neutral, toothless and conformist about Russian aggression”. Less than a month later, the director was summarily expelled from the Ukrainian Film Academy for refusing to heed calls to boycott Russian cinema.

As members of the Ukrainian film industry echoed those calls in Cannes this week, Loznitsa reiterated his support for Russian filmmakers who, at great personal risk, have criticized Putin and the war in Ukraine. “In my opinion, any attempt to boycott a culture is in itself an act of barbarism,” said the director. “When we talk about culture, it is our duty to defend and protect culture. And every step towards the abolition of all culture is also a path to barbarism.”

“The Natural History of Destruction” is produced by LOOKSfilm (Germany), Studio Uljana Kim (Lithuania), ATOMS & VOID (Netherlands), Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg and Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk. Progress Film takes care of world sales and sales in Germany, where a theatrical release is planned.

Despite his status as one of the most important and celebrated documentary filmmakers in the world, Loznitsa struggled for three years to get his film financed. Many financiers did not understand his motivation for wanting to do it, he said – a bitter irony in view of the past few months. “I think it should be clear to everyone why this topic is so relevant,” he said.

The film is Loznitsa’s latest attempt to grapple with the “terrible, tragic events” of a turbulent century, which he portrayed in films like The Event, about the 1991 coup in the Soviet Union and its award-winning Babi Yar. Context”, depicting the 1941 massacre of more than 33,000 Jews in Kyiv by Nazi German troops. “[These events] still not fully reflected and understood,” he said. “And we still haven’t found a mechanism to prevent similar events from happening again.”

The Belarusian-born filmmaker, who grew up in Kyiv and now lives in Germany, remains confident that humanity can finally find a way to break such spirals of violence. “It’s not that we as humans are completely incapable of learning any lessons from the past, from our history,” he said. “But to learn these lessons there should be a will – political will, personal will – and it takes effort. An effort to understand, an effort to think.” Referring to Russia’s bloody war in Ukraine, however, he added: “It’s a shame that those efforts haven’t really been made yet.” Sergei Loznitsa releases trailer for “Natural History of Destruction”

Charles Jones

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