Sergei Loznitsa, Netherlands│Ukraine 2021
On September 29-30, 1941, 33,711 Jewish men, women, and children were murdered by a German Sonderkommando (special tasks unit)and the Ukrainian auxiliary police in the Babi Yar valley near Kiev. BABI YAR. CONTEXT compiles historical footage of the invasion of Ukraine by the German military, the extermination of the Ukrainian Jewish population, and the aftermath. The film was commissioned by the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, and it took ten years to complete, largely due to the Russo-Ukrainian War beginning in 2014 and the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. It is part of a much larger project by the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center which also included a controversial virtual reality project BABYN YAR. VIRTUAL MEMORY, also showcased at the goEast Film Festival which allows for an immersive experience of the massacre.
BABI YAR. CONTEXT is an impressive tour de force of an archival documentary giving a nuanced and emotionally impactful perspective of the horrific events of the Holocaust in Ukraine. Director and screenwriter Sergei Loznitsa and his team combed European archives and found footage previously thought lost, including the footage of the Soviet trials against the German perpetrators of the massacre. Loznitsa builds a picture of the situation in Ukraine leading up to the massacre, the complicity of the ethnic Ukrainians, the subsequent massacre, the Soviet trial of the perpetrators, and finally the literal destruction and implied erasure of the history. BABI YAR. CONTEXT is a chilling insight into the hypocrisy and cruelty of which man is capable and an important archival piece which seeks to shed light on a historically overlooked tragedy of Ukrainian history.