Take a Drink: for unmistakable brutality
Take a Drink: for unmistakable solidarity
Take a Drink: for each display of the map
Take a Drink: for master MacGyvering
Take a Drink: for The Littlest Revolutionary
Do a Shot: for the most intense game of Red Rover ever
Do a Shot: yes, that Vitali Klitschko
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
While the fires raged at the Maidan, I was in a hotel room in Central Russia, watching the news make passing mention of it in favor of Olympic highlights. Over my ensuing year living in Russia, that would flip-flop, with news of the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine everywhere coloring many of my interactions with my students- never hostile, but always just… there. I heard many justifications, some of which made some sense (cultural ties that stretch back before even England, much less the U.S., was a glimmer in history’s eye) and some that didn’t (peacekeeping, my ass). One thing that was certain, though- I never saw footage like that featured in Winter on Fire on the news while in Russia.
Winter on Fire tells the story of the thousands of protesters in Kiev’s Maidan Square, who refused to back down under brutal, even fatal attacks from state police because they were tired of seeing a government play lip service to moving towards the European Union while succumbing to Russian pressure to do just the opposite.
This documentary is not for the faint of heart. It does not shy away from the utter chaos, terror, and real, unignorable blood- sickly congealing like no karo syrup ever will. We are in the smartphone age, and this is how revolutions are conducted now- in full view of the world, with no MPAA-friendly cuts or prepackaged adrenalized horror bullshit. This is what real violence looks like, and it’s ugly and disgusting, and heartbreaking if you have any heart to break.
If you can watch, however, you will see history in the making, of the rousing, flag-waving variety. While this film isn’t really one for geopolitical nuance (more on that below), it’s not trying to be- and no matter the intended angle, footage of thousands of unarmed people facing down bullets instead of facing down a future of more corruption and criminality from their leaders has no angle. Their solidarity is incredible to witness, and even above the intriguing insights of how the Ukrainian Orthodox Church sides with the people over the existing power structure (unlike Russia, where the Church could not be more ingrained into the existing power structure) or how many protesters continued at the Maidan because they thought they literally could not turn back (their only protection being their peers, and not their homes where the police could find them), it’s the simple images of a sea of humanity just not willing to take it anymore that pack the real punch.
There’s most definitely an angle. There’s not really any attempt to present a view of what the other side might have been thinking, or even their motivations, and no attempt to acknowledge the ethnic, political, or cultural nuances of the situation is made either.
Granted, shooting at unarmed civilians doesn’t present much nuance.
Some flashy editing and an opening coda that either doesn’t tell newswatchers anything new or doesn’t tell the uninformed much of anything at all don’t help shake the impression that this is just short of propaganda. To answer an argument I recently had with my wife, propaganda is propaganda, no matter how noble the cause underpinning it.
Winter on Fire is a shocking, inspiring document of social unrest and pure human bravery.