The Netherlands, Lithuania


Unique, mostly unseen before, archive footage from March 1953, presents the funeral of Joseph Stalin as the culmination of the dictator’s personality cult. The news of Stalin’s death on 5 March 5 1953 shocked the entire Soviet Union. The burial ceremony was attended by tens of thousands of mourners. We observe every stage of the funeral spectacle, described by Pravda newspaper as the Great Farewell, and receive an unprecedented access to the dramatic and absurd experience of life and death under Stalin’s reign.
The film addresses the issue of Stalin’s personality cult as a form of terror-induced delusion. It gives an insight into the nature of the regime and its legacy, still haunting the contemporary world.

Directors Statement

“We don’t wish to know that humanity is based on mythical concealment of its own violence, which has always been projected onto new victims. All cultures, all religions are based on this foundation and hide behind this shield, just like tombs surround a deceased and conceal him inside them. A killing calls for a coffin, and a coffin is nothing but a continuation and a repetition of the act of murder. Religion-tomb is in fact a concealment of its own foundation, of its only raison d’étre”.
Rene Girard, “Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World”

I see this film as a visual study of the nature of Stalin’s personality cult and an attempt to deconstruct the ritual, which formed the foundation of the bloody regime. It is unthinkable that today, in Moscow circa 2019, 66 years after Stalin’s death, thousands of people gather at his tomb on 5 March, in order to lay down flowers and mourn his death. I believe it’s my duty as a filmmaker to employ the power of documentary image to appeal to the minds of my contemporaries, and to seek truth.
Sergei Loznitsa

Director's Biography

Sergei Loznitsa was born on 5 September 1964. He grew up in Kiev (Ukraine), 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, 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 22 award-winning documentaries and 4 fiction films.
Loznitsa’s feature debut MY JOY (2010) premiered in the main competition at the Festival de Cannes, and was followed by the feature film IN THE FOG (2012), which was awarded the FIPRESCI Prize at the 65th Festival de Cannes. In 2017, Sergei Loznitsa presented his third feature A GENTLE CREATURE in the competition of the Festival de Cannes. In 2018, Loznitsa received the prize for Best Directing of the Un Certain Regard section of Festival de Cannes for his fourth feature film, DONBASS.
In 2013 Sergei Loznitsa founded a film production company ATOMS & VOID.
Sergei Loznitsa’s feature-length documenatry MAIDAN (2014), the chronicles of the Ukrainian revolution, had its world premiere at a Séance Special of Festival de Cannes. His subsequent feature length documentaries, THE EVENT (2015), AUSTERLITZ (2016), THE TRIAL (2018) and STATE FUNERAL (2019) were presented at the Special Screenings of the Venice Film Festival.
Sergei Loznitsa continues to work both in documentary and feature genres.

2020 A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, documentary short
2019 STATE FUNERAL, documentary
2018 THE TRIAL, documentary
2018 VICTORY DAY, documentary
2016 AUSTERLITZ, documentary
2015 THE EVENT, documentary
2014 THE OLD JEWISH CEMETERY, documentary short
2014 MAIDAN, documentary
2013 LETTER, documentary short
2012 O MILAGRE DE SANTO ANTÓNIO, documentary
2010 MY JOY
2008 NORTHERN LIGHT, documentary
2008 REVUE, documentary
2006 ARTEL, documentary short
2005 BLOCKADE, documentary
2004 FACTORY, documentary short
2003 LANDSCAPE, documentary
2002 PORTRAIT, documentary short
2001 SETTLEMENT, documentary
2000 THE TRAIN STOP, documentary short
1998 LIFE, AUTUMN, documentary
1996 TODAY WE ARE GOING TO BUILD A HOUSE, documentary, short

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Sergei Loznitsa

Written by: Sergei Loznitsa

Produced by: Maria Choustova, Sergei Loznitsa, Uljana Kim

Editing: Danielius Kokanauskis

Sound: Vladimir Golovnitski

Visual Effects: Jonas Zagorskas

Nominations and Awards

  • EFA Documentary Selection 2020