The Netherlands, Belgium


In August 1991 a failed coup d’état attempt (known as Putsch) led by a group of hard- core communists in Moscow, ended the 70-year-long rule of the Soviets. The USSR collapsed soon after, and the tricolour of the sovereign Russian Federation flew over Kremlin.
As president Gorbachev was detained by the coup leaders, state-run TV and radio channels, usurped by the putschists, broadcast Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” instead of news bulletins, and crowds of protestors gathered around Moscow’s White House, preparing to defend the stronghold of democratic opposition led by Boris Yeltsin, in the city of Leningrad thousands of confused, scared, excited and desperate people poured into the streets to become a part of the event, which was supposed to change their destiny.
A quarter of a century later, Sergei Loznitsa revisits the dramatic moments of August 1991 and casts an eye on the event which was hailed worldwide as the birth of "Russian democracy". What really happened in Russia in August 1991? What was the driving force behind the crowds on the Palace Square in Leningrad? What exactly are we witnessing: the collapse or the regime or its’ creative re-branding? Who are these people looking at the camera: victors or victims?

Director's Statement

In “The Event” I tried to develop my method of working with archival material. I am fascinated and enchanted with the aura of Leningrad/Petersburg, and I am excited by the opportunity to continue the cinematic chronicles of this city. Just as in “Blockade”, the footage of “The Event” documents the life of the city at the time of a historical calamity. Perhaps, not as tragic, as it was in “Blockade”, but nevertheless, crucially significant.
Mythology created around the events of the 1991 Putsch has overshadowed the actual facts, and it is only now – 25 years later – that we can distance ourselves from the misconceptions, strip off the layers of propaganda and speculations, and see and judge the events in a contemporary context. What interests me most is not the politicians, but the people. The protagonists of the film are the citizens of Leningrad, living through the calamities of the coup d’état in August 1991.
The film consists of episodes, arranged in chronological order, representing life of the city during those
days. We shall observe a gradual change in the mood and the spirit of the people: we shall see how ordinary
troublesome summer days. We can observe a gradual change in the mood and the spirit of the
life turns into history; people’s faces, singular close-ups taken in the crowd, bear witness to the spirit of the
people: we can see how ordinary life turns into history; people’s faces, singular close-ups taken in the
?me, which can not be found in history text books or transcripts of poli?cal speeches. Perhaps it is on those
crowd, bear witness to the spirit of the time, the description of which cannot be found in history text
faces, with their expression of confusion, disbelief, determina?on, anger, that we find the answer to the
books or transcripts of political speeches. Perhaps it is on those faces, with their expression of
ques?on – what happened in Russia in August 1991 and why it is that we are s?ll puzzled about the meaning
confusion, disbelief, determination, anger, that we find the answer to the question – what happened in
of this event today.
Russia in August 1991 and why it is that we are still puzzled about the meaning of this event today.

- Sergei Loznitsa

Director's Biography

Sergei Loznitsa, Ukrainian film maker, was born on September, 5th 1964. He grew up in Kiev, and in 1987 graduated from the Kiev Polytechnic with a degree in Applied Mathematics. In 1987-1991 Sergei worked as a scientist at the Kiev Institute of Cybernetics, specializing in artificial intelligence research.
In 1997 Loznitsa graduated from the Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow, where he studied feature film making.
Sergei Loznitsa has been making documentary films since 1996, and he has directed 17 documentaries.
Sergei Loznitsa’s montage film “BLOCKADE” (2005) is based on the archive footage of besieged Leningrad.
Loznitsa’s feature debut “MY JOY” (2010) premiered in the main competition at the Festival de Cannes, and was followed by “IN THE FOG”, which premiered in the competition of the 65th Festival de Cannes in May 2012, where it was awarded FIPRESCI prize.
In 2013 Sergei Loznitsa launched a film production and distribution company ATOMS & VOID.
Sergei continues to work in both documentary and feature genres.

Today We Are Going To Build A House (documentary, 1996, 28 min)
Life, Autumn (documentary, 1998, 34 min)
The Train Stop (documentary, 2000, 25 min)
Settlement (documentary, 2001, 80 min)
Portrait (documentary, 2002, 28 min)
Landscape (documentary, 2003, 60 min)
Factory (documentary, 2004, 30 min)
Blockade (documentary, 2005, 52 min)
Artel (documentary, 2006, 30 min)
Revue (documentary, 2008, 83 min)
Northern Light (documentary, 2008, 52 min)
My Joy (feature, 2010, 127 min)
In the fog (feature, 2012, 128 min)
O Milagre de Santo António (documentary, 2012, 40 min)
Letter (documentary, 2013, 20 min)
Reflections/Bridges of Sarajevo (documentary, 2014, 17 min)
Maidan (documentary, 2014, 133 min)
The Old Jewish Cemetery (documentary, 2014, 20 min)
Sobytie/The Event (documentary, 2015, 74 min)

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Sergei Loznitsa

Written by: Sergei Loznitsa

Produced by: Sergei Loznitsa, Maria Choustova, Nicola Mazzanti

Editing: Sergei Loznitsa

Sound Design: Vladimir Golovnitski

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2016