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Laramie Movie Scope:
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

Fire and Ice, revolution in Ukraine

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 5, 2016 -- The is the second documentary I've seen on the pro-European “Eurosquare” demonstrations in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (literally: Independence Square) in the Ukrainian Capital of Kiev from late 2013 to early 2014, which resulted in violence, death, riots, revolution, and the ouster of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych.

The first film, “Maidan,” I saw and reviewed almost exactly a year ago, was quite different from this one. That was more of a “eyewitness to history” kind of fly-on-the-wall film which gives the viewer lots of images, but only minimal explanations and background information on the revolution. I wish I could have seen “Winter on Fire” first, because it explains everything that is not explained in “Maidan.” It would have given me the background to understand the first film, but both are powerful films in their own ways.

This documentary, like “Maidan” concentrates on the action in and around Maidan square, but it also includes some other nearby important demonstrations and clashes with police, including the Berkut special government forces and other military forces, in the streets. It includes maps to show the routes the marchers took to protest actions (or inactions) of the government. The protesters wanted Ukraine to join the European Union, while President Yanukovych chose to align the government with Russia instead.

The importance of religious leaders, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists, who were all united against the government, is also emphasized in this film. It also shows the activities in and around the famous St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, which served as a refuge for demonstrators at times. During the demonstrations, the bells of St. Michael's Cathedral were all rung at the same time. The last time that had happened was in 1240, when the Mongols invaded the city, according to the film.

The demonstrators were hit with tear gas, steel clubs, grenades and bullets, but they refused to back down. The protests and riots continued for week after week, starting in November, 2013 and finally ending in February of 2014. The protesters built barricades and burned tires and other materials (hence the name, winter on fire) to keep the police at bay. Some of the images of Maidan at night are really beautiful in this film, in contrast to all the ugly things that happened there.

The film shows how demonstrators built barricades, shields and crude weapons to defend themselves against a large number of police and hired thugs called the “Titushky” (reportedly named after Ukrainian athlete Vadim Titushko). The Titushky also blended in with the protesters to foment riots, attack media representatives, and generally stir up trouble for the protesters. Protesters also organized cars and drivers to patrol Kiev and transport protesters and wounded, called “AutoMaidan.” The film includes footage of a police attack on an AutoMaidan car and arrests.

The are some very violent clashes between the protesters and the government forces shown in the film. The conflict became so heated the government forces even fired at priests, medical workers and others trying to help the wounded. The protesters didn't back down. Their revolutionary zeal seems to increase with each death and injury. The toughness and determination of these Ukrainian people is very inspiring. However, at the end of the film, it is noted that many times more people have died since the revolution in Russian-Ukrainian conflicts which followed in Crimea and other parts of the Ukraine which have since fallen under Russian control. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2016 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)