Ukrainian film shows ‘deep history’ of Holocaust massacre

FILE PHOTO: People place flowers during a ceremony at a monument commemorating the victims of Babyn Yar in Kiev
FILE PHOTO: People place flowers during a ceremony at a monument commemorating the victims of Babyn Yar (Babiy Yar), one of the biggest single massacres of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, in Kiev, Ukraine September 29, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

July 12, 2021

CANNES, France (Reuters) – Archive footage and photographs preserve memories of one of the biggest single massacres of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust in a documentary premiered by Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa on Monday.

“Babi Yar. Context”, unveiled at the Cannes Film Festival, tells the story of the mass killing that marked the start of the Holocaust in occupied Soviet Ukraine, as well as surrounding events.

“It is a deep history and we have to know our history, and films must provoke interest in our history,” Loznitsa said at the launch.

Nazi German forces shot dead an estimated 34,000 Jewish men, women and children on Sept. 29-30, 1941, in a large ravine known both as Babi Yar and Babyn Yar, on the edge of Kyiv.

The 56-year-old director said he grew up in the city, not far from the site, and found traces of the past as he wandered around as a child.

“I remember the stones which they left … when they destroyed the Jewish cemetery. The stones were in the bushes,” he said. “I asked myself what happened here, what is it?”

But the adults around him were not forthcoming. “They would say, when you will grow up you will know.”

“Babi Yar. Context’ is Loznitsa’s seventh film at the Cannes festival. In 2012, his movie “In the Fog” competed for the Palme d’Or.

In May, Ukraine unveiled a synagogue built of wood and designed to unfold like a pop-up book at a site commemorating the victims of the massacre.

(Reporting by Michaela Cabrera and Hedy Beloucif; Writing by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Janet Lawrence)