Cinema Review: Winter on Fire | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, February 26th, 2020  

Winter On Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Studio: Netflix
Directed by Evgeny Afineevsky

Oct 14, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Evgeny Afineevsky offers viewers an unflinching look at the front lines of Ukraine's unrest. The director's visceral new documentary, Winter On Fire (streaming now on Netflix), begins with the thousands of demonstrators who gathered in Kyiv's Madian square to voice their support for joining the EU. Most viewers likely already know the film's following eventshow that relative calm quickly descends into chaos after the EU talks fell through, how protestors clashed with the police, enduring beatings and eventually bullet fire, and how those demonstrators took refuge in a cathedral and sparked fiery roadblocks as the standoff escalated throughout that fateful winter. 

And while the audience recalls the news coverage of those events, the documentarys fascinating and horrific details that bring the conflict to vivid life and make it palpably relatable to foreign audiences. We hear from protestors who describe how the police wrapped screws and bolts around stun grenades to turn those supposedly harmless weapons into deadly shrapnel. Red Cross medics also recall how they were attacked by those officers, despite their peaceful attempts to treat wounded demonstrators. But the film's most chilling scene may be when a young street urchin outlines how to make a Molotov cocktail, a lesson that was passed on to him as he befriended the protestors-turned-militants. 

These are but a few of the dozens of interviewees who Afineevsky in Winter On Fire, giving the documentary a sprawling scope. The director deftly intercuts those interviews with news clips and in-your-face cell phone footage of the demonstrators hurling bricks at armored officers, only to be chased down and clobbered by their batons, and at times even mowed down by bullets. Each of  Afineevsky's interviewees prove to be highly compelling characters is this brutal real life narrative, and audiences will surely bemoan how many of those freedom fighters are only allotted fleeting seconds before a new brave face is introduced. But that brisk pace also evokes the frenzied terror that these demonstrators feel, and the frantic pace with which they make their stand. The narrative's brisk clip will also keep viewer's eyes glued to the screen throughout this all-too-brief, meticulously researched, and deeply jarring account of the Ukrainian people's uprising, making Winter On Fire an absolute must-see. 

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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