The subject here is the WWII genocide of Ukraine’s Jewish population. Editing film and stills from state and public archives in Russia, Germany and Ukraine, some of it never seen before, [Sergei] Loznitsa creates a fascinating and quietly devastating chronicle of invasion, occupation and slaughter. — The title refers to the Babi Yar ravine outside Kiev where, over two days in September 1941, SS soldiers aided by Ukrainian police shot 33,771 Jews, with no resistance from the local population. Though the addition of the word ‘context’ may seem rather dry and unnecessary, the intention it represents – situating the massacre within the entire period of Nazi occupation – is astute, revealing patterns of movement and behaviour between two oppressors and the citizens caught between them. — Loznitsa doesn’t go out of his way to make clear what he’s showing, and supposition is sometimes required; his films aren’t delivered on a plate. In this instance, any ambiguity regarding perpetrators, prisoners, victims, simply adds to the sense of a collective loss of humanity.
Demetrios Matheou, Screen Daily
The massacre at Babi Yar needs context, no doubt, and the film has more title cards than most of Loznitsa’s work, but by covering the whole period from the Nazi invasion of Ukraine to the 1950s, he makes the slaughter a piece in a puzzle. — Babi Yar. Context does as the title says: It gives context, which means it doesn’t strip away the accretions of background and afterlife.
Jay Weissberg, Variety