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TIFF Review: Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom

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Anti-government protests in Kiev

In response to the Ukrainian government signing a pact with Russian rather than with the European Union a protest movement spreads through Maidan Square in Kiev which has violent consequences.

The opening title sequence provides the historical and political context leading up to the events documented by filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky (Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!).  Crowds gather in Kiev’s Maidan Square to celebrate a vote which will see the Ukraine join the European Union but instead President Viktor Yanukovych aligns the country with Russia.  The political decision leads to a series of mass protests that occurred over several months starting in November 2013 which were countered by violent tactics deployed by the Berkut special police force.

What is amazing is the amount of footage that Evgeny Afineevsky has been able to assemble of the actual protests and the vicious response which results in civilians getting killed and beaten.  It is disturbing when a shot shows an injured protestor be struck each time as a member of the Berkut special police force passes by him.  The cruelty inflicted is unbelievable.  There is no voice over as the emphasis is on interviews as well as slick and effective graphics that serve as chapter breaks.

Noticeably missing are members of the government and Berkut special police force to provide their side of the story. At times the swelling music boarders on being melodramatic and overshadows the production sound of the bullets being fire which has biggest emotional impact.  The pacing is good as there is a sense of progression as the documentary touches upon the different protests in chronological order.  Winter on Fire adopts an eyewitness approach that places the audience in the middle of the action as it unfolds which heightens the tension and disbelief about the amount of suffering human beings can inflict upon each other.

3 out of 5

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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