FREEDOM ON FIREEvgeny Afineevsky
Narrated by Oscar-winning Helen Mirren and directed by Academy Award nominee Evgeny Afineevsky, this is the sweeping look at a humanitarian crisis, the horrible realities of war and the spirit of unity even amid Ukraine’s darkest hours. Important, urgent film.
Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States of America | 2022 | 114 min
PRODUCTION: Evgeny Afineevsky, Will Znidaric, Ted Hope, Galyna Sadomtseva-Nabaranchuk, Shahida Tulaganova, Inna Goncharova – Winter on Fire Production; MakeMake Entertainment, PFX
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Aleksandr Ratushniv, Alex Kashpur, Alyona Gramova et al
EDITING: Will Znidaric, Jan Supa, Ted Woerner, Alexander Chernobrovkin, Maria Yaremchuk, Maksym Korzhan, Maksym Smoliarchuk, Maxim Mironov, Tom Mika
MUSIC: Jasha Klebe
In 2015, Afineevsky’s Netflix documentary Winter on Fire, allowed the world to bear witness the events of the Maidan Uprising in Kyiv. Now, the director returns with his huge veteran crew and broader, comprehensive story to help us understand the very essence of the tragic war in Ukraine. Crafted from stark footage shot by 43 cinematographers in multiple countries, the film transports viewers through a war that started immediately after Maidan in 2014 and continues through the 2022 Russian invasion. Through personal stories of civilians, soldiers, journalists, and international volunteers, this is a humanizing diary of millions of people whose lives were turned upside down by eight years of conflict. A saga of resilience that challenges the international community to oppose tyranny together.
The screening will be followed by Q&A with director Evgeny Afineevsky.
Thousands of Ukrainians shivered through a three-month protest in Kyiv’s Maidan Uprising until the government accepted their ultimatum — President Viktor Yanukovych fled, paving the way for free elections and the opportunity for the nation to finally join the European Union. Yet as I documented the public revelry of February 23, 2014, a war began before my eyes. Upon losing influence over the Yanukovych regime, Vladimir Putin knew his own authority could be undermined if Russians saw their neighbours reap the benefits of democracy. Putin’s aggressive agenda remains unchecked by much of the world, even since his troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
Freedom on Fire presents ordinary people at their most vulnerable, attempting to evade bombs and bullets while — in some cases — choosing which family members to save. By releasing the film now, I hope I can bring immediate clarity to viewers confused by the deliberate misinformation campaign surrounding the current events in Ukraine. Despite the ongoing brutality, the nation is not on its knees. The movie’s essence is singing, hugging, volunteers bearing gifts, and children drawing pictures for the soldiers who are keeping them safe. That’s beauty: People who know how to laugh and love.
One of my goals was to detail the struggles associated with reporting from the front lines of a warzone. My main character is a female journalist, largely because Marie Colvin (1956-2012) remains a constant presence in my mind. I didn’t know her personally, but I immersed myself in her work while making Cries from Syria. Colvin died doing her job and telling the truth about that country’s civil war. FREEDOM ON FIRE is dedicated to storytellers who risk danger to give voices to the voiceless. Everything can be rebuilt except lives.
Festivals & Awards (selection)
Venice Film Festival, 2022 – World Premiere | Hamptons International Film Festival, NY 2022 – Best Film (Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film of Conflict and Resolution) | Toronto International Film Festival, 2022 | Kineo Awards, Italy 2022 – Movie for Humanity Award
Director, producer, cinematographer, documentarian Evgeny Afineevsky was born in the Russian city of Kazan when it was part of the former U.S.S.R. Since childhood, he has dreamed of a world with less violence and more acceptance. While making Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015), he realized that he could imbue his art with activism. That film helped galvanize people in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Hong Kong, and Lebanon to demonstrate against oppressive dictatorships. His next work, Cries from Syria (2017), opened hearts and minds of audience members in various countries inundated Afineevsky with questions about how they could aid innocents who have long been trapped in the Syrian Civil War. After earning Pope Francis’ trust for Francesco (2020), he joined the pontiff on a globe-trotting tour to alleviate division through love and kindness. A continuation of Winter on Fire, called Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival and shares themes such as humanity’s capacity for good and evil, mortality and heroism. Afineevsky has also debuted documentaries at the Venice FF, Telluride FF, the Toronto IFF, Rome IFF, and the Sundance FF. His oeuvre has received nominations for an Oscar, a PGA Award, a Primetime Emmy Award and four News & Documentary Emmy Awards.