Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom is a documentary about the ongoing political and social crisis in the Ukraine. Two years ago, the government went against the will of the people and refused to join the European Union. Students protested in the public square and the President ordered his special services to come in, break up the protest, and beat the students bloody. Instead of discouraging the public, it galvanized them to demand the resignation of the President through months of protests. The violence escalated until police and paramilitary forces were literally gunning peaceful protesters down in the streets. Told through interviews, animated maps, and footage of the protests/attacks, Winter on Fire is a shocking documentary. There is no other way to describe it. The things that happen to these people fighting for the future of their nation are unconscionable.
We like to think this kind of thing doesn't happen anymore. This isn't the June Rebellion in France, or the American Revolution, or any other major uprising by the people against the government. We're supposed to know better than to attack our own in nations with the right to peacefully assemble and protest. Yet it keeps happening.
Ukraine is one of the more shocking examples in recent memory, but it's not the only example. When local governments do not want to change, they do tend to send out a disproportionate amount of force. Look at the Black Lives Matters protests, or the Occupy Wall Street protests, or Moral Mondays movement. These are all groups fighting for the rights of people to live and thrive.
Yet all it took in each case was one impetus--either by an outside agitator or governmental overreach--to send police and paramilitary forces in to attack peaceful protesters, arrest peaceful protesters, and intimidate peaceful protesters to silence them. Some of these movements still exist, but each unmitigated attack is a warning against our rights.
The differences shown in Winter on Fire are resilience and support. The immediate overreaction by President Viktor F. Yanukovich to peaceful protests stirred people to action. It suddenly wasn't just the young people protesting. People from all walks of life joined together to take a stand against corruption. When the President's forces attacked, the people responded with prayer, song, and cries for peace. Each wrongful action by the President's regime resulted in more people joining the protests, including retired military personnel who trained the people to respond to intimidation and defend without provocation.
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom is hard to watch. It never feels slow, but so much happens so quickly that you feel like the film will end any moment. Even more disheartening is the series of addenda going into detail about the Russian annexation of Crimea mere weeks after the events of the film. This conflict is ongoing and, sadly, ignored by most press. One can only hope the recent Oscar nomination for Winter on Fire can help draw attention back to this significant political crisis in the Ukraine.
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom is currently streaming on Netflix.