What does the violent heart of revolution feel like? As the anger and hatred glow white hot is there a language its players use to speak to one another? And what becomes of the gun toting authorities when their fiefdom is destroyed, nobody is afraid any longer, and all things are ablaze? These are just some of the questions addressed in this visceral documentary from Maidan square filmed during the violent Ukrainian winter of 2013-14.
It begins peacefully, with flag-waving and chanting, but violence and anarchy sets in as protesters argue over the purpose and nature of their protests and ask themselves over and over "who is in charge here?"
The police cower behind shields and lose all sense of order. Calls for peace or dialogue are drowned out by rubber bullets and explosions. People who want no part in the action are pulled in against their will. Orthodox priests bless both sides and offer reminders of the Last Judgement. An old-school Communist cries out "this is barbarism"
as he desperately clings to a statue of Lenin. All notion of right and wrong blurs as the intensity and bloodshed reaches a stable frenzy. Can there be right and wrong where both sides only wish to maim and kill the other?
"Back off guys"
yells a young protester. "You're shitting your pants"
. It's true. The police visibly tremble as they are pelted with rocks and Molotov cocktails. "What the fuck are you doing?"
another spits, "You're all Ukrainian"
. It's so cold the flames and explosions melt nothing. Burning hell fires and freezing ice define perfectly the mood in Maidan square. The rioters dig to resources gained from lifelong police intimidation. Their flares and fireworks crackle gold and red against a sea of municipal grey, setting the Kiev twilight ablaze. As rubber burns and steam rises from the barricades, lines are blurred, authority flinches, and violence reaches a crescendo - the point where fear finally departs. All is filmed at the very heart of the battle zone, between the heaving writhing lines of rioters and their authoritarian foes. The camera is consumed by the pitched battles, always on the front-lines, directly between the seething, spitting, venomous protagonists.
All Things Ablaze is a powerful and moving thesis on civil war, authority, and what human beings are capable of when a society is thrown into violent chaos. "Who is in charge here?"
Spontaneous anarchic revolution leaves no room for leadership and level heads. Violence, no matter how right the cause, becomes dark. Force fixated, the intent at the flaming heart of revolution can only be murderous. Equality is reached, the same hellish motivation driving both sides of the heaving, burning, writhing, front-lines.
Absolutely riveting. By far the best film to come out of Ukraine's 2014 revolution.
Winner - DOK Leipzig MDR Film Prize, 2014
Official Selection - Sheffield Doc Fest 2015
Official Selection - European Film Awards 2015
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