Human Rights Watch Fest ’23: Freedom on Fire – Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom sees Israeli-American director Evgeny Afineevsky putting together harrowing footage and interviews from Ukrainians across the country. The film displays the fighting, struggling, surviving and living that everyday people face during the Russian invasion. This film comes after Afineevsky made a film in 2014 called Freedom on Fire where the three month protest led to the beginning of democracy but also led Putin’s aggressions to be unleashed. For Putin, he couldn’t have democracy knocking on his front door. The film sees ordinary citizens fighting to evade bombs and bullets as their lives are forever shattered by the heartless invasion. Many sequences in the film serve as some of the most effective anti-war documentary bits that you’ll ever see in a film. A mother and her newborn son must go through hell to escape their destroyed city only to be taken prisoner, young boys talk about how much better the world would be with Putin dead and we see how much effort it takes Ukrainians to laugh even as they watch a comedy show.

Still, one of the most highlighted elements is the perseverance and bravery of the people of Ukraine. Despite what they’re enduring, they refuse to let the Russians break their spirits. Sometimes, we see their spirit in their passionate anger against Putin and his regime. Other times, their spirits are lifted through music, children drawing pictures and working to serve one another. In the most difficult of circumstances, the most beautiful parts of the human spirit come out because they are necessary to fight the atrocities of war. The film could still use some work in the editing room to effectively tell a whole story but the footage the filmmakers have found is invaluable and serve as a brash wake up call to the injustice happening in the face of Putin’s fundamentalist regime.

The world needs to prevent his doctrine and propaganda from spreading and occupying the hearts of people.

Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Right for Freedom is now playing at the Human Rights Watch Festival. You can find out more information here.

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