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34 days
135 min
Netherlands, Lituania, 2019

Production : Atoms & Void, Studio Uljana Kim
French, English



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 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.

A word from Tënk

Through a compilation of unseen archival footage, Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa bears witness to the funeral of Stalin, who, in his 29 years in power (1924-1953), transformed the USSR into a vast totalitarian state. By subverting the original meaning of the images propagated by the cult of the "Little Father of the people," Loznitsa reveals a stream of anonymous supporters, grieving and devastated by an illusion of the end of the world. During this event, five million people marched en masse past the dictator's catafalque, where scenes of collective hysteria were reported, resulting in the deaths of 1,500 people crushed in the crowd.

Today, an equally terrifying regime rumbles in Russia. With his declaration of war on Ukraine in February 2022, Vladimir Putin, just as Stalin before him during World War II, is ordering his neighbouring country's army to be wiped out and buried "under piles of corpses." While the war rages on in Ukraine, killing hundreds of thousands on both sides, nostalgic Russian souls continue to lay flowers at the tomb of the "Man of Steel." Through propaganda just as powerful as that of yesteryears, the people now bow before Putin, who, like his predecessor, seeks to eradicate all opposition to his regime while wielding a nuclear threat that now enables him to exert pressure on the entire world.

In light of current events, State Funeral emerges as a work of immensely significant importance, tragically reminding us of how the past echoes onto the present in an endless cycle.


Pascale Ferland
Filmmaker, teacher and programmer


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