Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Зима у вогні: Боротьба України за свободу) is a 2015 documentary film about Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests. Told in English, Ukrainian, and Russian and composed of real footage from the protests, it is an on-the-ground, heartrending, and occasionally graphic look at Ukraine’s recent history.
The film travels through the course of the protest, as they started with peaceful protests on Maidan Square in Kyiv against then-president Yanukovych’s distancing himself from unity with Europe. They then, as is well known, turned both more violent and more general, evolving into protests against the corruption of the Ukrainian state and for the betterment of life in Ukraine. The film introduces us to all the main characters in the Euromaidan protests, including several who are killed during the course of events, and presents a loose resolution at the end—insofar as one exists to this day.
Winter on Fire was filmed by 28 amateur filmmakers—people who were at the protests or who went in order to film. The director, Evgeniy Afineevskiy (Евгений Афинеевский), was actually living in America at the time, but when the protests started he had a friend go to Kyiv to begin recording for posterity.
Many reviews were positive—and audience reception particularly so—though there were some criticisms. Most were in the fact that the film did not achieve any objectivity and did not present much background to the events; it’s certainly not a news report. Some reviewers felt that it was too optimistic and ignored the unsavory elements of the protests, namely their hypernationalism. But other reviewers praised the way the film managed to dump its viewers directly into the middle of the action and to allow them to feel that they understood what was happening within the protests.
The film was nominated for several major film-festival awards, and for the Oscar for Best Documentary.
Director: Evgeniy Afineevskiy (Евгений Афинеевский)
Stars: Cissy Jones, narrator
Production company: Netflix