The Trial




The infamous Moscow Show Trials of 1930 were not all they appeared to be.


Trial, The

Here we have some remarkable footage, yet none of it is true. Director Sergei Loznitsa has assembled the archive film of the 1930s’ Moscow Show Trials that were purportedly about bringing to court and punishing the individuals involved in being members of what was then called the Industrial Party, also known as The Wreckers, who were accused of committing economic sabotage of the Soviet Union’s factories and machinery.


It is quite possible that those chosen to star in the show trials had been leant upon, presumably with threats of worse things to come if they didn’t stand trial and admit to crimes that they had not committed. They probably had no choice in the matter, as non-cooperation would have meant a term in prison, or worse: death by hanging.


This is a very moving historical piece of filmmaking but it is difficult to call it a ‘documentary’ as such, because it is all fiction. It looks real enough as one by one the alleged criminals face the prosecutors in a very believable situation. The prisoners are all tried, all found guilty and all given either jail sentences or the death penalty. Presumably, the ‘reality’ of the situation is to put others off trying to beat the system. But in fact it was all fabricated and nobody was prosecuted. For show trial read sham trial.


This is a powerful indictment of the Soviet propaganda machine – heartless, cruel and basically inhuman. Has anything changed in today’s Russian society? It’s a question that needs to be asked but to which we may not appreciate the answer. 


Original title: Process.




Featuring  Aleksandr Aleksandrovitch Fedotov, Ivan Andreevitch Kalinnikow, Nikolai Krylenko, Sergey Viktorovitch Kupriyanov, Viktor Alekseevitch Laritchev, Pjotr Semonovitch Ossadtchij, Vladimir Ivanovitch Otchkin, Leonid Konstantinovitch Ramzin, Ksenofont Vasiliyevitch Sitnin, Nikolay Frantsevitfch Tcharnovskiy, Andrei Vyshinsky.


Dir Sergey Loznitsa, Pro Maria Baker-Chiustova, Sergey Loznitsa and Peter Warnier, Ed Danielius Kokanauskis, Sound Department Vladimr Golovnitskiy, Visual Effects Jonas Zagorskas, Researcher Vladilen Vierny. 


Atoms & Void-Wild at Art.
125 mins. Netherlands/Russia. 2018. Rel: September 2019. No Cert.