What Happened Here?
What Happened Here?

What Happened Here?

Director Rob Nilsson

Production year 2011

Length 95min.

Country Ukraine


What Happened Here? is a Rob Nilsson film essay shot on the road in Ukraine, Russia and the U.S. (during the summer, fall and winter of 2009) about the Russian revolutionist Leon Trotsky and his relevance to the politics of the 21st Century. One of its main purposes is to explore the differences between realism and idealism in an age which clamors for justice, but seems addicted to violence. “When I first read My Life thirty years ago, Trotsky’s writing painted such a simple, powerful picture of his home place I made a vow to see for myself one day. But when we got there we discovered only empty fields with grass waving in the wind. No trace of the large synagogue which once stood on the hill or the Jewish school Trotsky attended as a boy. Nothing but horizon… Until later I went up on Google Earth and saw the ghostly imprints of houses, shops, and barns where a town had once stood. What happened here… and why?” - Nilsson writes.



Rob Nilsson
Rob Nilsson



Olga Zhurzhenko


Rob Nilsson

Director of Photography

Mickey Freeman

Music by

Daniel Feinsmith


Al Nelson


Josh Peterson

Production company(ies)

LLC UkrKino

Rob Nilsson

Born 1939, Rhinelander, Wisconsin, USA. San Francisco-based director. Nilsson and co-director John Hanson won the Camera d’Or at Cannes for Northern Lights. Nilsson won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance FF, for Heat and Sunlight, being the first American film director to win both awards. He is also the creator of the Direct Action style of digital filmmaking taught in the Tenderloin yGroup Actor’s Ensemble, San Francisco, and appeared in workshops conducted around the world. Nilsson is a pioneer in the techniques of video to film transfer, which led to today’s digital revolution. In 1985 Signal 7 was the first small format video feature to be blown up to film and distributed around the world. Chalk, his first feature with the Tenderloin Action Group (now the Tenderloin yGroup) a San Francisco inner city acting workshop, was featured in the Locarno and Toronto film festivals. It was voted one of the top films of the year by the Village Voice. Seven of Nilsson’s 9 @ Night film series, nine Direct Action digital features cast from the yGroup. In recent years retrospectives of Nilsson’s work have taken place at the Pacific Film Archives, Berkeley, Chicago Institute of Art, Resfest, Seoul, Korea, Digital Talkies Festival, New Dehli, India, MOV Festival and Cinemanila, Manila, Philippines, Hong Kong IFF, and the Kansas City Filmmaker's Jubilee. Recent awards include the Ted M. Larson Award for “outstanding contributions to the film industry” from the Fargo IFF, the Indie Pioneer Award from the Kansas City Filmmaker’s Jubilee, a Filmmaker of the Year award from the Silver Lake FF, Los Angeles.


Northern Lights (1979), Signal 7 (1985), On the Edge (1986), Heat And Sunlight (1988), The Street (1989), Words for the Dying (1990), Choosing Success (1994), Chalk (1996), A Town Has Turned to Dust (1998), Winter Oranges (2000), Singing (2000), Stroke (2000), Scheme C6 (2001), Noise (2003) Attitude (2003), Samt (2004), Frank (2004), Security (2005), Need (2005), Opening (2006), Pan (2006), Used (2007), Go Together (2007), Presque Isle (2007), Imbued (2009), What Happened Here? (2011).

FILMS 2012