FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, AKA Triumph of the Will 2.0

There is a new film that has premiered on Netflix, WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, that is a stunning piece of neoliberal propaganda, an utter depravity that has as much intellectual merit as a bowl of cottage cheese and as much honesty as Leni Riefenstahl. Of course, one should not be surprised.

In the absolute debacle that has been the Ukraine crisis, I have personally found a certain level of difficulty in handling both sides of the media. There is a failure to acknowledge, for example, that Ukraine, much like Poland, is a historic front line in the sometimes quite nasty and violent feud between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian Churches, a schism that dates back to 1054 and was based around both theological and territorial disputes. There is also a tendency on the pro-Russian side to paint the entire Ukrainian nationalist movement as neo-Nazi. I am not saying this is untrue, but some of the players in Ukraine are descended from opponents of the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. And while we are talking about Ukrainian anti-Semites, it is absolutely necessary to include in that discussion the name of Nikita Khrushchev, who had some truly awful moments regarding settling Jews in Crimea, though the question of when Soviet anti-Zionism morphed into anti-Semitism is a hard topic to parse through.

My point is that the Ukraine is not a replay of the Great Patriotic War totally, just as that war was not a re-staging of Napoleon’s invasion of Tsarist Russia. The neoliberal siege of a historic warm water port of the Russian sphere of influence is its own unique theater of combat that can be informed by reading Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate or Tolstoy’s War and Peace, but neither an atomic bomb nor the cannons of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture will end this episode. Neoliberalism as a socio-economic and political program of social engineering is in many regards far more insidious than fascism ever was, especially considering how it coopts and utilizes identity politics as a weapon in ways the Nazi project would have been genuinely revolted by. For example, the film features as advocates of the neoliberal program Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic, and Jewish voices, going farther than petty tokenism and into co-option of the history of national minorities in Europe so to serve capital. This is what we can call a new development or evolution in the coordinates of imperialism.

That kind of nuance is absolutely lacking from WINTER ON FIRE, which imposes a cheap Hollywood three-act structure on an eastern European conflict that has multiple parties and perspectives. Not since Leni Riefenstahl gave us the godly descent of Der Führer in THE TRIUMPH OF THE WILL have audiences been subjected to such bombast and lack of critical thinking. Figures like Volodymyr Parasyuk and Mykhailo Havryliuk, both politicians with right wing connections, are interviewed and represented as glorious patriots rather than stooges for neoliberalism. The film begins with a passage that lets the cat right out of the bag for anyone who has a clue, which is the critical crack in the foundation that makes this exercise ultimately so banal. From the beginning, the film discusses how the hinge of the dispute is a free trade agreement that was part of European Union integration. OOPS! Heads up, boys and girls, America has been dealing with free trade since the 1990’s thanks to the work of Bill Clinton’s passage of NAFTA, it is not a harbinger of freedom. In reality, it merely gives you the freedom to starve in creative fashions. I know personally people on the verge of losing their houses because of free trade. You sure this is so awesome?

The film is glossy and relies on the type of hallmarks that have made documentaries so successful in the past ten years, using gritty realism in the cinematography that is reminiscent of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Since the box office success of Michael Moore’s BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and FAHRENHEIT 9/11, nonfiction cinema has become a hot commodity in a fashion akin to how the 1977 STAR WARS made science fiction cool for a good decade or so. But just as was the case with HOWARD THE DUCK, one cannot say all the successors of the original hit have been fantastic. There have been some stellar documentaries in the past few years, but a large majority of them have been absolute garbage, trash cinema that will never have a kitschy value in a few more decades. WINTER ON FIRE, as both an advertisement for neoliberalism and a film, is a stunning example of this.

More articles by:

Andrew Stewart is a documentary film maker and reporter who lives outside Providence.  His film, AARON BRIGGS AND THE HMS GASPEE, about the historical role of Brown University in the slave trade, is available for purchase on Amazon Instant Video or on DVD.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail