IDFA - The Trial
Sergei Loznitsa / NL, 2018 / 129 min.
Between 1936 and 1938, the Great Purge took place in the Soviet Union. Stalin had millions of citizens executed or sent to prison camps. The show trial held in Moscow in 1930 was a portent of the state terror to come. A group of economists and engineers was accused of being members of the Industrial Party and conspiring with the French prime minister Raymond Poincaré to stage a coup. The suspects were questioned for days in a packed courtroom, while soldiers marched and slogans were shouted outside.
Filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa has made a series of films on the legacy of the Soviet Union: Maidan, A Gentle Creature and Donbass. For The Trial, he uses actual footage of the show trial to immerse the viewer in the totalitarian reality of the time. There's an underlying relevance to our own times, coloured by "alternative facts" and manipulation of the media. In a sobering move, Loznitsa adds two simple lines of text at the end, putting the accusations in historical perspective.