Feeling betrayed by a broken promise from their new president Viktor F. Yanukovich, an unprecedented number of demonstrators filled the streets of Maidan Nezalezhnosti, also known as Independence Square in Kiev, on the night of November 21st 2013. The protests grew larger and larger by civilians who believed in their will to change life in the Ukraine. What started out as peaceful protests soon turned to savage chaos as the Berkut special police units used brutality to disassemble the demonstration, again and again. The actions of the police units, the unwillingness to treat the Ukrainian people as free people, and the pride and belief in what was right would eventually lead to the Ukrainian Revolution, something very few Americans know much about until now.
Now on Netflix, the very company that partly helped with production, Evgeny Afineevsky’s 2015 documentary film ‘Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom’ takes viewers into the thick of the fight that lasted just over ninety days. Using actual footage from television cameras, protesters own footage, and more, Afineevsky reveals everything that needed to be seen but often wasn’t. Starting from the very moment the people of the Ukraine realize their future was in peril, to the first protestby thousands, until the bitter sweet victory when the evil and cowardly president slinked away to safety, this documentary reveals so much that will shock you, engage you, and make you cry. With amazing story telling he lets the very people who stood in the streets facing the dangerous and animalistic Berkut forces tell their personal tales. Viewers are left stunned and nervous as they hear from young students, Bishops, and even a twelved year old boy. Much of the footage is hard to watch as the violence is shown with no censoring, and it is as disturbing as it sounds.
Afineevsky follows the time line perfectly with out trying to be too artistic by jumping around. He sticks to telling the story as it happened and it makes it easier and more thrilling to watch and learn from. With digital maps he shows exactly where in the city everything happens and even has interviews in the very areas that the fight took place. He doesn’t have his footage drag for too long to try to incite emotions, the footage is already just long enough and emotional enough. His cuts from footage to personal accounts are well placed and overall his documentary is well paced.
While most documentaries will show violence and footage that shows the disgraceful acts of the government to make viewers feel sorry for those that had to live through the grim situations, Afineevsky’s documentary makes you cheer on the people of the Ukraine. You admire their bravery, their convictions, and their amazing will to be free. His documentary makes you want to hear more from actual participants, to learn more. It also makes you think about the actions of the government and inspires you and convinces you what people can accomplish with out using violence against violence. A must see documentary for those who are not faint of heart or have weak stomachs, ‘Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom’ also reminds American viewers how thankful they are yet wonder if our government could ever be as corrupted as to treat the people of the United States like peasants with no say. It couldn’t possibly could it? Our police forces would never be so violent and savage would they? Indeed.