The film covers the unrest in Ukraine over 93 days in 2013 and 2014, as student demonstrations supporting European integration grew into a violent revolution calling for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich. The docu is slated to make its world premiere at the 72nd Venice Film Festival in September.
“Evgeny has assembled a cinematic tribute to the heroism, spirit and determination of the Ukrainian people,” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix VP of original documentary programming. “We are honored to provide a global platform for him to share his powerful narrative.”
Documentaries have been a steady part of Netflix’s original programming diet — and may offer an opportunity for the company to contend for its first Academy Award.
Other docus in Netflix’s queue include “The Square,” an Oscar-nominated film about Egypt’s 2011 political revolution; Liz Garbus’ “What Happened, Miss Simone?”; “Tig,” about comedian Tig Notaro’s battle with cancer; and docus about Keith Richards and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. Netflix also has ordered “Our Planet,” an ambitious eight-part nature documentary to be shot in Ultra HD from the creators of the “Planet Earth” series.
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Netflix currently has no plans to release “Winter on Fire” theatrically, which means it wouldn’t be eligible for Oscar consideration, but that may be revisited.
For the documentary, Afineevsky and his crew interviewed protesters, activists, journalists, medical workers, artists and clergy representing multiple generations, social classes, nationalities and faiths, including a 12-year-old volunteer. “Winter on Fire” documents the fight of Ukrainian protesters who stood their ground in the face of bloodshed, despair and harsh conditions.
“While we were filming unfathomably brutal attacks by the police on unarmed citizens, we weren’t thinking about how to get the best shots, only the importance of showing the ways in which the movement would forever change the country and the lives of its participants,” Afineevsky said in a statement.
The documentary is produced by Netflix, Afineevsky-Tolmor Production, UkrStream.TV and SPN Production, in association with Passion Pictures, Campbell Grobman Films and Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment. The film is produced by Afineevsky and Den Tolmor. John Battsek, Lati Grobman, Christa Campbell, Lisa Nishimura, Adam Del Deo, Angus Wall, David Dinerstein, Andrew Ruhemann, Dennis L. Kogod, Nadine Khapsalis Kogod and Bohdan Batruch serve as exec producers.
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” is Afineevsky’s third documentary. His other films include the 2002 adaptation of “Crime & Punishment,” starring Vanessa Redgrave, Crispin Glover, John Hurt and Margot Kidder, and he also has produced and directed numerous TV projects. His feature directorial debut was 2009’s “Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!”