Winter on Fire is a must-see. While fully intending to move to the living room to watch it, I found myself perched on my rigid kitchen chair, eyes glued to the screen, my jaw in turn slack and gaping or totally tense and shut as I was drawn into this intimate portrait of a conflict from the front lines. I had just come home from teaching a four-day workshop. While I had invited people to fight for their liberation from the trauma and the victimization that present limitation upon limitation, young and old fought to the death for freedom on a national level. Little did the authorities know that heroes would rise, despite their brutality. I honour all heroes who rise out of the ashes, whether on a personal or a political level.
Winter on Fire brings you the story of the peaceful student demonstrations in Kiev supporting European integration that grew into a violent revolution calling for the resignation of Viktor F. Yanukovych, who turned his back on his electoral promises to strike a deal with Vladimir Putin. In ninety-three days, what started as peaceful demonstrations became a fight to the death for freedom. The students were thankfully joined by retired military personnel and expert strategists, Médecins Sans Frontières and other medical volunteers, emergency food and supplies providers, family, friends, and a plethora of religious officials and devotees from the various churches and cathedrals in Kiev. The struggle in the heart of winter is epic; the images are in turn hauntingly beautiful and horrific; the people are iconic; and the community that builds around hope for a better world is nothing less than awesome.
I believe that this documentary, along with the Amy Winehouse documentary, Amy, and other recent films, are seminal works that bring in a new era of documentary filmmaking. These directors and filmmakers have unprecedented access to primary-witness footage filmed on smartphones. The immediacy and urgency of this footage transforms the screen into a window on a world that even the most astute secondary witnesses could not dream of capturing in their lenses.