Freedom on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom: A Message for Us To Be United
“Freedom on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom” is a new documentary by the award-winning filmmaker and producer Evgeny Afineevsky, who was born in Russia and resides in the US. The film had its premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival and later on at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. It is a sequel to Afineevsky’s first film on Ukraine - “Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom,” available on Netflix.
Cultured Focus Magazine awarded Afineevsky with the “Excellence in Film Award” during the Cultured Focus Awards and Diversity in Film Symposium at Venice Film Festival partially due to his work on the Ukrainian documentaries, as well as his bravery as a filmmaker.
Afineevsky spoke to Cultured Focus Magazine about his new documentary and what he observed while filming it. He finished making the film just days before the Venice Film Festival, at the end of August, and less than six months of work. He used drones, journalists and photographers to help him capture each moment as precisely and as much as possible throughout Ukraine.
Nikoleta Morales Discusses "Freedom on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom" with Director Evegeny Afineevsky
In regards to his documentary, he said: “It's a bridge between human stories to human stories, from humanity to humanity, such as a mother putting her kids down to sleep in Ukraine and praying her kids will wake up the next morning.”
Afineevsky shared that the film has been accepted well at film festivals and after the Q and A he always gets the same question: “What should we do?” He encourages people to act and be united in this conflict.
“I am always trying to use my platform as a filmmaker to bring the spotlight on the issue and the voices that need to be heard. I am putting my audience in a place where I have been, to feel the pain, to feel the inspiration, the resilience and great human spirit of the Ukrainians,” he said.
When asked about his opinion on the declining media coverage of the Ukrainian war, Afineevsky said that it always starts with a hype and then it slowly dies down. He shared that according to him as a filmmaker, the real war in Ukraine started in February 2014 and began to disappear as the world neglected it. He was there to document the beginning in his film “Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom.”
He said that we have been on this “rollercoaster of war and escalation” for eight years. “That's why it was so urgent to make the film and my team was so determined to make it in less than six months because we don't want the world to stop talking about Ukraine and neglect this situation again, and allow this escalation again…distancing ourselves from this conflict can bring a bigger conflict and escalate it in a more horrible war that can be irreversible. If the world unites to stop this madness, at a certain point, I think it will be stopped and we can prevent a disaster closer and World War III, which in my opinion as a filmmaker, has already started.”
Afineevsky pointed out that history does repeat itself and that humanity has to learn the lessons of each century in order to move forward in peace. “We as humanity are not learning the lessons. Every century gives us a person who has an imperialistic desire and it ends badly… This war is both on the ground and in the media space. Unfortunately, the lessons are the same in every century. The difference now is that the weapons are much more massive and destructive.”
In the midst of this horror and pain, the award-winning filmmaker was also able to observe resilience, strength and a great human spirit, which he hopes can be an example to all of us. “For me it was an honor to document and show a great example of people who are fighting for their motherland, beliefs, culture, and the future of their kids. Their spirit is amazing. They are joking, smiling, and welcoming people. We have a lot to learn from them. I never saw someone who was down and that is so beautiful to capture - their humanity,” he said.
In addition to capturing the war, the great human spirit of the Ukrainian people, Afineevsky also captures the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian women and female war journalists, to whom he dedicates this film.
“It is great to see women fulfilling duties in the war equal to men. A lot of characters in this movie are women. It is a testament to women empowerment and a testament to their ability to be equal to men. They have the toughest jobs not just from raising kids, but saving their lives, not just to be reporters but to be reporters in the war, and on the front lines. For me it is dedication to all these journalists and women who bring the truths every day to educate the world, and to give this important information that we are missing. It is important to emphasize the women's role in this war, and pay tribute to women and journalists who seek the truth, and give their lives for freedom of speech,” he said.
In regards to his view on the war and its end, Afineevsky believes that the Ukrainian people will win the war. “I just hope that my movie can bring Ukraine one step closer to victory and raise a call for action to stand for Ukraine,” he added.
His message for the world is to unite. “I just hope that the world as it is right now can unite around this conflict, and together stop it as soon as possible so we can go back to normal lives and a peaceful world, and not a world where there is a threat of nuclear disaster. I hope, as a filmmaker, to see it happen because I witnessed how people unite on the Ukrainian ground, which allows them to defeat and win back their territories step by step. As much as people think the war is far, it’s close to them. Tomorrow can be any other country.”
You can follow Afineevsky on Instagram and Facebook as well. For more on “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom”, a website is in the works for the film and will be available soon - www.FreedomFire.film.