While searching the archives for his found footage film Babi Yar. Context (2021), Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa stumbled upon unique but forgotten film material of a criminal trial in Kiev in January 1946. In this prelude to the Nuremberg trials, 15 Nazis and Nazi sympathizers stood trial for crimes against humanity.
As in his previous films, Loznitsa presents the material without commentary, and uses short intertitles to inform the viewer of the necessary facts. These harrowing texts describe the mass slaughter of civilians (including women, children and the elderly) in places such as Melitopol, Kodra and Raska. Also addressed is the bloodbath at Babi Yar, where 33,000 Jewish people were shot dead by the Nazis.
The testimonies of witnesses and perpetrators are bone-chilling. One of the Nazis gives his reason for shooting children: “[They] were all running around.” The bloody history of Ukraine remains alarmingly relevant in the present day, and Loznitsa lets that bloody history speak loud and clear in The Kiev Trial.