Ukraine Documentaries

PBS Frontline: Putin’s Road to War (54m; March 15, 2022)

This short documentary gives pertinent background story on how Putin rose to power in Russia (and it does so with much less warmongering than Kasparov’s book). However, the thesis implied by the documentary that Putin rules Russia and wages wars alone while his staff and the Russian billionaire class are just trembling yes-men is not at all believable. Why has Putin been so popular in Russia? Frontline doesn’t ask. Maybe because he is willing to stand up to NATO? Americans and American media are so always in such disbelief that the rest of the world is not happy with American military extending all over the place. 👍👎

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (1h38m; 2015)

After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Netflix made this documentary available for free on Youtube. It follows several participants in the Euromaidan with an emphasis on the Yanukovych administration’s use of police violence against protesters. What it did not show at all is the far right’s involvement in the protests, which is almost like making a documentary about the January 6 capitol riots in the US and not mentioning (and even trying to hide) that the participants were Trump supporters. I saw a few red and black flags of Bandera acolytes in the background of a few scenes, but for the most part it felt like I was being shown carefully selected footage by the director so that I wouldn’t realize I was being asked to sympathize at times with neo-Nazis. Lev Golinkin provides some balance in a review for The Nation: The Heartbreaking Irony of ‘Winter on Fire’ 👍👎

Ukraine on Fire (1h35m; 2017)

This is Oliver Stone’s take on Euromaidan. It gives much more context than Winter on Fire but is an over-correction to that film’s deficiencies: it focuses on the nationalist elements of the protests and through the lens of conspiracy theories and vague religious metaphors provides a very pro-cop and pro-Kremlin perspective. It’s one-sided, but unlike Winter on Fire at least it mentions some of the victims of the nationalist furor surrounding the Maidan protests like the 2014 massacre of anti-Maidan protesters in Odessa. (It seems that even Oliver Stone has criticized Putin for the 2022 invasion.) 👎👎

Maidan: Road to War (53m; March 2022)

I haven’t been able to find out much about this film, but it is from Russia Today's documentary channel and seems to have been released after the February invasion — apparently in an attempt to provide Russia’s side of the conflict to any English speaker who is willing to listen. (It is available on bitchute in case you can’t access the site.) It is similar in scope to Oliver Stone’s documentary, but despite being pro-Russian state-sponsored propaganda it came across as a less sensationalized, more balanced view. 👍👎

The Nine Lives of Nestor Makhno

It’s not a documentary, and I have no idea how historically accurate it is, but I’ve been enjoying this 2006 mini-series about the Ukrainian revolutionary hero (the version has English subtitles).


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