Global citizens watched the Ukrainian protests during the winter of 2013 and early 2014 with a bated breath, wondering who would survive the demonstrations. Evgeny Afineevsky explores what the world missed by not experiencing Kiev's moment of political independence in person.
Netflix will be screening the original documentary Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom on October 9.
Set between 2013 and 2014 of a civil rights movement uprising, director Evgeny Afineevsky looks to engage and inform international audiences on how student demonstrations supporting European integration turned deadly and violent.
During the turbulent 93 days, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from office after reversing a decision to integrate into the EU. And the pushback launched an ongoing civil war between citizens. Like the current civil rights movement in the United States, the filmmakers didn’t back away from the harsh reality of a rebuilding nation, either.
"While we were filming unfathomably brutal attacks by the police on unarmed citizens, we weren't thinking about how to get the best shots," said the director. "Only the importance of showing the ways in which the movement would forever change the country and the lives of its participants."
In 2014, the Los Angeles Times claimed that 100 protestors were killed with many left missing. After the destructive protests, altars and memorials lined the streets of Kiev and along the Maidan. Freedom carries a heavy price.
Focusing on claims of government corruption and a push for true representation by the protestors, the film will screen at the 72nd Venice Film Festival. Imagery will not be for the squeamish as demonstrators are beaten in the streets, setting off a chain reaction that still has the area locked in a conflict zone.
Students voiced and provoked a movement already burning behind closed doors. Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom opens those doors a year later, examining what really happened after the revolt.
Afineevsky interviewed a wide array of witnesses including media, children, emergency personnel and activists from all walks of life to explore what Ukrainians experienced versus what the world saw.
“We're pleased that Netflix is enabling us to share the hard truth and shocking reality of this historical event with the rest of the world." A hard truth that many only saw through news access, witnessing participation and demonstrators through media soundbites.
Winter on Fire hopes to inspire people to really examine the sheer, raw, visceral power of saying no more to political dissent and disengagement. And like the U.S. cases with police, how easily abuse of power can overtake humanity’s drive.
Witnessing the fight’s beginning is vital as the Ukrainian government currently battles for power against pro-Russian rebels in the east.
Many Ukrainians are left wondering where they fit in after only 25 years without Communism and Slavic rule. Eastern Europe nations suddenly reformed after being assimilated for decades’ guarantees moments of heated debate.
And as the country struggles to independently identify itself--either Russian or European--the world watches on. The bloody, ongoing revolution hasn't ended with a deposed president.
Evocative storytelling is more than a lingering kiss at the end of a romantic comedy, a crying jag at the end of Beaches, or cheering when the good guys save the day while throwing a good right hook. The world of fiction is nothing compared to the reality of non-fiction citizenship.
“We are honored to provide a global platform for him to share his powerful narrative,” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming.
Stories of triumph are easy sells, but that isn’t why the streaming service chose to documentary. "Evgeny has assembled a cinematic tribute to the heroism, spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people.”
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom premieres October 9, 2015--only on Netflix.