When Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, “elected” under a cloud of fraud, vote rigging, and voter intimidation, then passed on a deal to join the EU, the people of Ukraine took to the streets to protest. On paper, Ukraine had been independent since 1991, but it was clear to the people in 2013 that they were not really free.
The people protested peacefully from November 2013 through February 2014 in the face of escalating violence, threats, and scare tactics. Police threw stun grenades, beat them with iron sticks, and shot at them with rubber bullets, but the crowd that sometimes reached one million refused to bear arms and stood firm in their demands, even as their comrades bled. To watch these crowds surge with song rather than weapons is truly an amazing thing, and film maker Evgeny Afineevsky strikes a good balance that, while informative, is also quite depressing.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s inspiring to see so many young people getting political, fighting for a better future, caring about their fellow citizens. It will really make you reflect on the relative apathy of our culture. There’s some raw footage of the events, and lots of interviews from both leaders of the revolution and the ordinary people who showed up to be counted, and both speak with sad eyes about the toll taken.
After a bloody three months, the people got their desired outcome: the president resigned, and left the country. And if that’s where the story ended, then we could feel good about their achievement, we might even feel that the sacrifice had been worth it. But both our newspapers and the film’s end credits make clear that the president’s resignation wasn’t the end to this “winter on fire”, but only the beginning of an even bigger war. The futility is heartbreaking. This is a documentary: THERE IS NO HOLLYWOOD ENDING. But the film did open my eyes on important events I realize now I had only a hazy understanding of.