the Yanukovych’s regime’s brutal assault on the peaceful Maidan protests, St.
Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery had not rung all its bells simultaneously since
the Mongol invasion of 1240. Of course, this fact comes with an asterisk.
Technically, the Soviets destroyed the Kiev landmark in the 1930s, but it was subsequently
rebuild following independence. Appropriately, the working Orthodox monastery
played a significant role in the events that unfolded on and around Maidan
Square. Russian-Israeli filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky captured history in real
time, documenting step by step how the demonstrations evolved into a revolution.
Rightfully considered an Oscar contender, Afineevsky’s Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (trailer here) screens during
the San Francisco Film Society’s Doc Stories—and also streams on Netflix.
Euro-Maidan movement and its supporters have been well documented by filmmakers
such as Sergei Loznitsa, Andrew Tkach, and Dmitriy Khavin, yet the Western
media still gives credence to Soviet propaganda claiming the popular uprising was
merely a prolonged tantrum thrown by skinheads and neo-National Socialists. However,
with the exposure granted by Netflix’s platform, those lies should finally be permanently
put to rest.
fact, one of the big “scoops” of Afineevsky’s film is the extent to which Kiev’s
Major Orthodox Archbishop, Catholic Archbishop, and Islamic Mufti of Religious
Administration supported the Maidan activists. Their early blessings
(literally) were important, but it is impossible to overstate the leadership of
His Eminence, Agapit, the Vicar of St. Michael’s and Bishop of Vyshgorod. It
was he who approved the tolling of the bells and gave shelter to protestors
fleeing from steel truncheon-wielding of agents of the Berkut, Yanukovych’s personal
shock troops, who were truly the barbarians at the gates.
Loznitsa’s film, Afineevsky takes the time to single out individual protestors.
While this gives the film greater emotional resonance, it is also necessary in
some respects, for viewers to fully understand the dynamics in play. One such
protestor we meet is the popular but self-effacing Serhiy Nigoyan, whom many
fellow Maidan activists identified through social media as an inspirational figure
for them all. When Nigoyan became the Berkut’s first gunshot fatally, his face
began appearing on makeshift shields across the Square.
with twenty-eight credited cinematographers, Afineevsky captures just about
everything that transpired, including the savagery Yanukovych and his Russian
puppet-master so strenuously denied to the world media. Viewers should be
warned, Afineevsky will introduce them to Ukrainians who will be murdered in
the ensuing assaults and sniped attacks. Yet, he and editor Will Znidaric whittled
and stitched the voluminous raw footage into a tight, cogent, and cohesive
aspect of the Euro-Maidan that comes through more clearly in Winter than prior documentaries is the
genuine grassroots nature of the revolution. It was truly bottom-up rather than
top-down. In fact, opposition leaders (including Vitali Klitschko) are often
seen trailing after movement, earning jeers for their parliamentary caution. It
is probably the most cinematic document of the Maidan protests to-date and
perhaps also the most damning of the Yanukovych regime (and the big boss Putin,
by extension). Very highly recommended (especially for Academy members), Winter on Fire screens this Thursday
(11/5) as part of the SFFS’s Doc Stories.
Labels: Doc Stories '15, Documentary, Euromaidan