Tuesday, October 6, 2015

WINTER ON FIRE - Documentary about the Maidan Revolution of 2013-14

I was at the San Francisco showing of a fantastic new documentary about the Maidan revolution, "Winter on Fire" (dir. Evgeny Afineevsky), that was organized by Tom Luddy at the Dolby Labs building on Potrero.
This morning, I still feel overwhelmed by this film documenting the 94 days of protests provoked by President Yanukovioch reneging on his promise to proceed with European integration of Ukraine.
I have been in a revolution before, and I still vividly remember the three days I spent outside the White House in Moscow in August 1991 (and then some both there and the Kremlin). It felt like being plugged into some high energy field, being both bigger and smaller than usual, but most of all being connected to the other defenders of the White House, their energy flowing through me and mine, through them. I remember feeling totally incredulous as I realized I was standing in a line blocking a column of APC's coming right at us from the direction of Kalininsky Propekt...
Afineevsky managed to catch the spirit of this revolutionary moment -- the moment when a new consciousness is born, whether it is a new religion, a new society, or a new country. Those three days in August 1991 filled me with enough spirit of commitment to last for two decades, and there is some left even today. This is what Beethoven must have meant when he used Schiller's Ode to Joy: Sein umgeschlungen, Millionen... When I heard it afterwards, I felt for the first time that I knew what the chorus was singing about.
Of course, life is more complicated, and I am sure the Maidan revolution itself was more complicated, but the Big Spirit prevailed, and that is the focus of the film.
After the revolution, comes political drudgery of nation-building, the process that Max Weber called routinization of charisma: the hard work of transforming this transcendent spirit into functioning, orderly institutions of society and state. I hope Ukraine succeeds where Russia seems to have faltered.
"Winter on Fire" makes the Maidan revolution, perhaps, the first to be "crowd-documented" on video: from HD Canon cameras to iPads, iPhones, and just plain cell phones, some of them turned on and left running by the victims of riot police cracking their sculls open. It's all there in the film, edited into one big tsunami wave of revolutionary spirit washing over the Square.
I especially recommend the film to those people -- foremost among them, President Vladimir Putin - who think that the Maidan revolution was the result of the CIA or State Department or some other Western behind-the-scenes manipulation. I hope the film will change their mind. Needless to say, "Winter on Fire" is not the whole story. Because of the film's exclusive focus on the grass roots, it may not do justice to the contretemps among the leaders of the Maidan or some groups like the Right Sector, but the film shows beyond reasonable doubt that this was an authentic social movement of Ukrainian people -- at first, the Kiev student, then the cross-section of society -- that coalesced over three months and, paying the highest price in the dead and the wounded, overthrew the corrupt regime that had betrayed them.
There is still a lot of work to be done in Ukraine...

Please note: "Winter on Fire" is scheduled to premiere on Netflix on October 9. Here's a link to the trailer on Youtube.

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