Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Netflix Instant Queue Movie Review: "Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom" (2015)

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Movie"Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom"
Director: Evgeny Afineevsky
Year: 2015
Rating: UR
Running Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

A look at the Euromaiden protest that began peacefully in support of European Union integration, but quickly escalated into a full-fledged violent revolution against President Viktor Yanukovych.

Director Evgeny Afineevsky offers an up close and personal look on the recent uprising in Ukraine against President Viktor Yanukovich in this stark and stunning Oscar nominated documentary "Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom." Much like "The Square," with a plot revolving around the uprising in Egypt in 2011, Netflix seems to have a penchant for documentaries where revolutions are formed out of civil unrest and government oppression. In Ukraine, it all started as a simple peaceful protest in support of Ukraine's addition into the European Union. When Viktor Yanukovych, who was president at the time, refused to join the Union, tensions began to run high. The citizens of Ukraine had seen enough, and it quickly escalated from there. What happened next was unthinkable: after just a few short days, the government turned its riot police on the peaceful crowd, beating them with "iron rods instead of plastic ones" and arresting them simply because they didn't agree with Yanukovych. This action of force had the opposite effect of what they expected.  More and more people of all ages joined in the protest, not necessarily because they wanted in the European Union, but because they saw their government using force to silence the voice of the people. Thousands became tens of thousands as the citizens of Ukraine united together to stand up against this clear act of government oppression. Eventually, what was once a peaceful demonstration escalated into a full on revolution. As displayed in "Winter on Fire," the film doesn't shy away from the harsh brutality used against the Ukrainian people. Almost immediately, the Berkut, the special forces police in Ukraine, began to beat and push its citizens to the breaking point, armed with guns, riot gear, and armored vehicles. With stick, bricks, and homemade shields, the people of Ukraine banded together in the harshness and cold of winter to stand up against the riot police as best they could to ensure their voices were heard.

This is a really powerful movie. Living in America far from this conflict, we often only hear the basic outline of a shell of a story and don't always hear about the real struggles going on in other countries. We knew of an ongoing conflict in Ukraine, but never quite understood the details until now. "Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom," like all documentaries, showcases one side of an issue in an attempt to bring it to light. Usually, it is easy to admit there is another side of the story left undisclosed, but what exactly is that other side of this true story? The side of the corrupt government that tried to silence its people and destined them to be slaughtered in both mind and body? The side of the Berkut, who were technically following orders, but savagely beat, kidnapped, and murdered their fellow countrymen and countrywomen? The side of abuse of power and lethal use of force? Unarmed protesters were continually beaten. Men and women were curled up in the fetal position on the ground while riot police stood around and clubbed and kicked them repeatedly. We watch as a person gets shot and then see another person who was simply trying to help the wounded person get shot, too. There are some truly difficult acts captured on camera throughout this ordeal and there is absolutely no justification for them. It's hard to imagine stuff like this still happens in 2016, though now in such a prevalent technological age, it is a lot harder to hide injustices since there are cameras everywhere. This documentary is both enlightening and effective. As two people who watched the uprising from the safety of their home on news from afar, we can honestly say we had no idea the lengths both sides went to to prove their point. This is the kind of documentary we love: powerful, revealing, emotional, and engaging. 

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!
One year ago, we were watching

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