- Text by Alex King
When tens of thousands of Ukranians assembled in Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) from November 2013 to February 2014 and eventually ousted their corrupt president Victor Yanukovych, it was an inspiring example of what people can do when they come together. Despite brutal repression by the security forces (around 100 were killed and more than 1,100 wounded), protestors held strong and claimed victory.
Ukrainian director’s Sergei Loznitsa’s remarkable documentary Maidan recounts the story of this popular uprising from the smallest, seemingly insignificant moments, such as handing out food, organising medical care, etc. right up to the high drama of pitched battles against the police. He shoots in a restrained, observational style with static shots, but the unfolding events play out with the intensity of a big-budget action movie.
“What I find amazing is that human societies still require such events, such tragic sacrifices, in order to shape up as societies,” Loznitsa told Film Comment. “The story of Maidan obviously is not at all unique, because every society has in its history moments like that, moments of sacrifice.”
Maidan is a moving tale of how people can come together with a common goal, unite against injustice and bring out the best in one another. But the unseen character who casts a shadow over proceedings is Vladimir Putin. Watching the film knowing what comes next for Ukraine – the invasion of Crimea and an ongoing civil conflict fuelled by Russia – makes the heroism and sacrifice of the protestors all the more tragic. It’s a powerful reminder that the bravery and unity of a small nation is often not enough to overcome more powerful external forces.