The real story behind Oscar-nominated ‘Winter on Fire’

A tour guide nearby advertises tours to Mezhyhirya, the former residence of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted by the revolution that happened two years ago in this very place.

Two years ago, the four people – Galyna Sadomtseva, Lina Klebanova, Eduard Georgadze and Artem Rykhalskyi – shot video of the revolution. Today their work has found a worldwide audience with the Netflix documentary “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.”

A chronicle of the 93-day EuroMaidan Revolution, which turned from a peaceful protest into a violent confrontation with police in 2013-2014, is among five movies nominated for an Oscar this year in the Best Documentary category.

The movie is the first film co-produced by Ukraine to get an Academy Awards nomination. But since the film is known mostly as a Netflix project, its Ukrainian makers are often left out.

Probably won’t even be at the Oscars ceremony on Feb. 28. The four can’t afford the tickets to Los Angeles. They are OK with that, though, and happy that their work is being seen.

“There won’t be enough room on the stage of the Kodak Theater if all the authors of ‘Winter on Fire’ get together for an acceptance speech,” said Sadomtseva, an executive producer at SPN Production.

Indeed, the four filmmakers are among at least 28 filmmakers, camera operators and video streamers whose footage was used in “Winter on Fire.”

Klebanova says there were even more. “In the final credits, we named 28 cameramen and amateurs who gave us their videos. But those were only the names that we could recall,” she said.

The history of “Winter of Fire” started during the EuroMaidan Revolution, when a team of video streamers from SPN Production and Ukrstream and Evgeny Afineevsky, an American filmmaker of Russian and Israeli origin consolidated their efforts to make the documentary.

Then filmmakers edited 1,500 hours of video into the first draft.

For that Kyiv Post publisher Mohammad Zahoor provided editing equipment for free. Zahoor’s wife, singer-actress Kamaliya, was among the people interviewed in the documentary. Post-production studios Le Doyen Studio and Kinotour also provided their services for a minimum wages.

Afineevsky pitched the film to Netflix and they accepted. SPN production and Ukrstream TV gave up their rights for the film to Netflix with no regrets.

“We all wanted the whole world to see what had really happened during EuroMaidan. And thanks to Netflix, more than four million people in 156 countries watched the movie,” said Klebanova.

Ukrstream founder and journalist Yuri Ivanyshyn told the Kyiv Post that the Ukrainian filmmakers could never have given the movie such a boost themselves for financial reasons.

“We didn’t want ‘Winter on Fire’ to be seen only here in Ukraine. We dreamed of beating the Russian propaganda machine and we did so with international help,” said Klebanova.

By her estimate, more than 2 million people already watched the documentary illegally in Ukraine and Russia, where it is available on the pirate websites.

Rykhalskyi has been monitoring social media posts throughout the conflict and said that most Russians have not changed their anti-EuroMaidan views after watching “Winter on Fire.”

The video streamers who produced “Winter on Fire” didn’t work together during the protests, as they all shot and streamed episodes of the revolution for their own web platforms and TV programs. At least nine cameramen were injured, including Sadomtseva. She was hit by stun grenade fragments in her leg and cheek.

Georgadze, one of the independent cameramen involved, recalled that he was never scared while filming the violence on Kyiv streets.

“When you are behind the camera, you just do your job. Only after watching the material do you realize what was happening around you,” he told the Kyiv Post.

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