Lithuania, The Netherlands


Vytautas Landsbergis is a music professor and a charismatic leader of the Lithuanian independence movement. In 1990, he took his country out of the Soviet Union and forced Gorbachev to recognise its sovereignty. 30 years after the historic collapse of the USSR, Mr Landsbergis shares the hidden story behind his nation's fight for independence. Combining interview and archive footage, Sergei Loznitsa paints a mesmerizing portrait of a man who made history.

Director's Statement

This film is based on my conversation with professor Vytautas Landsbergis and on the archive footage, which Professor Landsbergis has very generously shared with me, and the footage we managed to collect from various archives both in Lithuania and abroad. The main subject of the film is the struggle of the Lithuanian people for their independence.

My focus is on the period from 3 June 1988, when a group of artists, scientists and intellectuals formed the “Lithuanian Movement for Perestroika”, which later became known as Sajudis, to 6 September 1991 when the Soviet Union formally recognised the independence of the Lithuanian Republic and 17 September 1991, when Lithuania officially became a member of the UN and professor Landsbergis delivered a speech at the UN General Assembly.

Landsbergis was in the epicentre of political life – first as the leader of Sajudis, and then as the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania. He participated in the most dramatic and pivotal events, which changed the destiny of Lithuania, of the Baltic States and, in fact, of the Soviet Union.

Now, 30 years later, we are beginning to get a somewhat different perspective on the political shocks of the 1990s. It is time to reflect on these events, putting aside the emotions and passions, and applying the knowledge and the insights we have today. It is time to understand what really happened to us and what lessons can be learnt from this experience, which had a truly seismic effect on an entire generation.
It is hard to think of a better protagonist/narrator than Professor Landsbergis, who can guide me through the history of Lithuania and the Soviet empire of the turn of the century and – like Virgil – lead me from the darkest corners of the Soviet oppression all the way to the global challenges of contemporary democracy.

This film presented another, purely artistic, challenge for me. For the first time in my career, I spoke to my protagonist. Our “interview” with Vytautas Landsbergis lasted for several precious days and I felt so happy and honoured to have a chance to ask him questions, the answers to which I’ve been seeking for a long time now. These are, sometimes, difficult and painful questions. I think that my insight into the events of the 1990s has become much clearer and deeper, and I’m eager to share this knowledge and this experience with the spectators not only in Lithuania, but also all over the world.

Having always dealt with crowds in my films and trying to keep my distance as a filmmaker, I now have an opportunity to create a portrait of one unique person. Still, this is not just going to be a portrait of a man, but also a portrait of a country and a portrait of an era. Back then, Lithuania gave the world a lesson in freedom. I think it’s time to remind ourselves what a hard lesson it was and how much courage it took to succeed.

Director's Biography

Sergei Loznitsa was born on 5 September 1964. He grew up in Kyiv (Ukraine), and in 1987 graduated from the Kyiv Polytechnic with a degree in Applied Mathematics. In 1987-1991 Sergei worked as a scientist at the Kyiv Institute of Cybernetics, specialising in artificial intelligence research.

In 1997 Loznitsa graduated from the Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow, where he studied feature filmmaking.

Sergei Loznitsa has been making films since 1996, and by now he has directed 25 award-winning documentaries and four fiction films.

FILMOGRAPHY (excerpt):
2021 - MR LANDSBERGIS, Documentary
2021 - BABI YAR. CONTEXT, Documentary
2019 - STATE FUNERAL, Documentary
2018 - THE TRIAL, Documentary
2018 - DONBASS, Feature
2017 - A GENTLE CREATURE, Feature
2016 - AUSTERLITZ, Documentary
2014 - MAIDAN, Documentary
2012 - IN THE FOG, Feature

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Sergei Loznitsa

Written by: Vytautas V. Landsbergis (junior), Sergei Loznitsa

Main Producer: Uljana Kim

Produced by: Maria Choustova, Sergei Loznitsa

Cinematography: Povilas Baltinas

Editing: Danielius Kokanauskis

Sound: Saulius Urbanavicius

Visual Effects: Jonas Zagorskas, Peteris Sudakovs

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2022