Stop what you’re doing and go watch this film, words cannot describe the brilliance of Winter on Fire. I’m confident my attempt to vocalise my feelings about this documentary will only articulate an eighth of the emotional impact this film had on me. This is the most spectacular, moving and perfectly crafted documentary film I have ever seen, this is a testament to the human spirit, the power of people and our belief that we all can fight for a better future.
Winter on Fire tells the harrowing story of a country at war with itself. It shows from beginning to end through extraordinary footage how the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine transformed from peaceful protests for freedom into a bloody revolution. Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych had lied to the people of Ukraine over signing a free trade deal with European union, the deal being the first step for Ukraine to become part of the EU. Instead Yanukovych had made behind closed-door deals with Vladmir Putin for his own personal benefit enraging the people and causing a protest to the decision in Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
You probably remember seeing instances of the first protest on the news, seeing footage of the Berkut (special forces of Ukraine) begin to attack the protestors with iron bars. One of the most extraordinary things about Winter on Fire is the sheer amount of coverage of every event within the revolution. There is no use of archive footage or recreation, these filmmakers were there, documenting the growing terror, their own lives in danger, you as the audience are right in there with them. Director Evgeny Afineevsky and editor Will Znidaric and the whole team craft a perfectly executed depiction of the panic and fear in the people as they realised that they will be brutally attacked. It’s chaos as men, women and children are attacked, you see people bleeding in the streets, hoards of Berkut beating people senselessly.
From that point on you see a people become united for the idea of the freedom of the country. Maidan Nezalezhnosti becomes their safe haven, over time it is transformed into a base camp, barricades are built, people train to protect themselves from the Berkut. You can’t believe that everything that is happening is real, the imagery this film is able to capture and display is breathtaking. Roaring fires and waving flags as people fight to the death for their own freedom and the freedom of their children. Time and time again the people attempt to march on parliament, demonstrate to their president and government that they want change only to be attacked, driven back through violence. It’s absolutely horrifying as you see the way this film tells its story.
Winter on Fire never shies away from the violence, you see people get beaten, kidnapped, killed right before your eyes. You see doctors and priests shot, people light candles and have funerals, praying for the friends and family that they have lost. The people of a country unite behind their belief of a better future, the filmmakers intimate involvement with the revolution allows for unbelievable moments to be seen on this film. The film is a combination of day by day footage of the events intercut with talking heads from survivors, participants, journalists, retired military, the people of Ukraine are heard in this film, their voice loud and clear. This style of documentary while seen before has never been used this effectively, building a real sense of dread as the revolution continues on.
These events are only two years old and we still live in a time where freedoms across the world are being taken. From the third world to the free world, people’s civil rights are being stripped away and to see the courage and sacrifice of Ukraine represented in this film moved me to tears. When the violence escalated to the point where the Berkut had resorted to killing unarmed protestors, snipers and grenades against their own citizens who they swore to protect, you can’t believe it. Regular people are committed to die for the cause, they will go out to fight with nothing but a shield and hard hat against the cruelty of a soulless army.
You become so emotionally engaged with this film, its tells the stories of so many different brave people who stood up against tyranny. You see children who embraced the revolution as something that they truly believe in, standing with everyone else as the Berkut comes to kill them. The film does justice to every person, every moment, to the ideals that the Ukrainian people fought for. After watching Winter on Fire you will never see Ukraine as the same again, whenever I think of Ukraine from now on, I will think of heroes.
Like I thought, I can only describe my feelings on this film so much, hopefully I’ve been able to convince you to see this masterpiece. It needs to be seen to be believed, these events happened, these people died for the freedom and they should never be forgotten. This film is celebrates them by portraying the true horror of Ukraine’s revolution and the bravery of every man, woman and child of how they stood up and fought for what was rightfully theirs.
Glory to Ukraine!
GLORY TO THE HEROES!