With recent shootings fading in our memory, the need to understand what happened by the means of art is growing. Distance defines one’s optics. People reflect of the February Revolution in a variety of genres: while previously, filmmakers recorded mostly only a few episodes and atmosphere of the rebellion or depicted portraits of the participants, now they are trying to move to more generalized forms.
Documentary series Winter That Changed Us is a joint project of Babylon‘13 group, which made short documentaries about the Euromaidan starting on the first day of protest, and 1+1 TV channel. The Heavenly Sotnia is the first and longest (45 minutes) of the planned seven-episode series. It used both already known material, particularly that posted on the web, and ‘Babylonians’ own footage. This work is in many ways typical of the TV, with music imposed to enhance dramatic moments, voiceover host, and comments from witnesses, as in the end, the TV looks forward to the widest possible audience. Commentators deserve to be named: Oleh Lemiakin, deputy commander of the 18th sotnia, Serhii Samuliak, squad commander from the 3rd sotnia, protester Viktor Tverdokhlib, volunteers of the Euromaidan’s medical service Olena Pylska and Maria Nazarova, commander of the 1st sotnia Andrii Yanchenko (Vysota) and Volodymyr Holodniuk, the father of Ustym Holodniuk, a hero of the Heavenly Sotnia. Holodniuk’s tale is a leitmotif of the whole episode’s plot.
As well as impressive strength of these people’s testimony, special moments from observations and memories that go beyond journalistic straightness also enter the viewer’s memory forever: unknown lad at the beginning of the film paints his helmet in blue, and focus on Holodniuk’s blue helmet at the end (he believed that blue color of the UN would protect him from the bullets); a pedestrian walks a small dog in the Mariinsky Park between lines of the protesters and the police early on February 18, a few minutes before a real hell would start there; young protester amid battle near the House of Trade Unions speaks on the phone: “Give him yogurt at night... I usually cook porridge for him at 8 o’clock”; grey-mustachioed humorist, who shouted: “Let me kiss my girlfriend from the Euromaidan!” and “girlfriend” hugged him and asked: “What is your name?”; a scene, full of exasperation and bitterness, when a prominent politician appeared in Maidan amid funeral service for the fallen; Holodniuk Senior’s recollection that his son’s comrades’ prearranged distress signal was “The sky is falling!”, calling on everyone to run to the rescue: “It has fallen on him. Now he will keep the sky up for us.”
Such episodes, in fact, bring the necessary dramatic quality which makes The Heavenly Sotnia a cinematographic event, too.
Revolution was a huge challenge for Ukrainian arts, especially filmmaking. The answer may bring that long-expected and strongly desired modern Ukrainian Renaissance. We just need creators to do the job. Big goals require many steps. Winter… is an early one, and therefore an important one.
Films of Winter That Changed Us series will be broadcast by 1+1 TV channel on Thursdays.
Ihor SAVYCHENKO, producer (Babylon‘13):
“Our task is to bring the discussion beyond the documentary cinema, and cinema community in general. This premiere is a first way to do it, but it will continue in different formats. Now, for example, Serhii Fomenko – Foma – frontman of the Mandry band, wants to hold big events abroad and in Ukraine: film screenings, photo exhibitions, posters and more. The Heavenly Sotnia is just the thing for this, it can be easily embedded into any event. And most importantly, we created it as an emotional snapshot of what is happening. We were not chasing for novelty of events, but tried to give as much as possible of novelty of experience. If you watch our movies right from the beginning, this is a perspective of history that is different from TV news and political analysis. At least we hope it is seen that way.”
Volodymyr TYKHY, co-founder and leader of the Babylon‘13:
“I cannot say I am completely satisfied with the result. Some pieces I would have done differently, but the authors decided that way.
“In fact, we are forced to do this to ensure that our stories have as big audience as possible. From the beginning, we offered our works to all channels, but other than the Hromadske TV, nobody was interested. It was later on that people from 1+1 came to us with the idea of making a film about the Heavenly Sotnia. Finally, we suggested a series, because we had a bunch of stories, a lot of stuff. We met with Oleksandr Tkachenko [CEO of 1+1. – Author], and he immediately agreed. First of all, it was stressed that we film for your average provincial housewife who was in Kyiv last time 10 years ago and did not really understand what was happening: the mass audience has to understand and feel what was going on. But I still hope that Winter That Changed Us will break through to the other side, the people in uniform. Because we are faced here with total deafness: we spent a month trying to talk to them, but no one was going to be frank. I think these people feel ashamed, they rather try to forget everything, but when the whole series will be broadcast, I like to believe that they will realize that to remain silent is wrong. There are so many topics to discuss. There were both the killed and the killers...
“Speaking about the upcoming episode The First Death, it was made by our cameraman Yurii Hruzinov. He was wounded in Hrushevsky Street on January 22 and was in the same room with Serhii Nigoyan. This film is five hours of totally unique footage compressed into 20 minutes.”