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Screen Time: Week of February 28, 2022

By Tom White

A Ukrainian family of five sits in their living room watching a film that they made about life during wartime. From Iryna Tsilyk’s 'The Earth Is Blue as an Orange'. Courtesy of the filmmaker.

Screen Time is your curated weekly guide to excellent documentaries and nonfiction programs that you can watch at home. 

As the tragedy and the resistance both unfold in Ukraine this week, we offer a selection of documentaries, in solidarity with the struggle and the beauty of the Ukrainian people. The International Coalition For Filmmakers at Risk is putting together an emergency fund. Please consider making a donation here.

Iryna Tsilyk’s The Earth Is Blue as an Orange, for which Viacheslav Tsvietkov won a 2020 IDA Documentary Award for Best Cinematography, follows single mother Hanna and her four children as they maintain their home in Donbas as a safe haven and sanctuary amidst the constant chaos of war outside their front door.  The family’s passion for cinema sustains them, and inspires them to create a meta film about life during wartime. The film is available on Vimeo.

Chad Gracia’s The Russian Woodpecker, another IDA Documentary Award winner for Best Cinematography (for Artem Ryzhytov), follows Ukrainian artist/activist Fedor Alexandrovich as he investigates the cause of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine and its potential connection to a Soviet Cold War-era structure, the Duga over-the-horizon radio antenna. His investigation is interrupted and impacted by the 2014 Euromaidan uprising, during which Ryzhytov was injured by sniper fire. Stream the film on Amazon Prime.

Matej B. Silecky's Baba Babee Skazala [Grandmother Told Grandmother], a project in IDA's Fiscal Sponsorship Program, tells the little known story of Ukrainian children torn from their homes in the crush between the Nazi and Soviet fronts in World War II. Spending their childhood as refugees in Europe, these inspiring individuals later immigrated to the United States, creating new homes and communities through their grit, faith and deep belief in the importance of preserving culture. Now available through PBS Learning Media.

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, the Academy Award-nominated feature from Evgeny Afineevsky, captures the 93-day uprising in 2013-2014 that began as a student demonstration in support of European integration and morphed into a full-fledged revolution calling for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich. Available to stream on Netflix.

Now streaming on YouTube, Maidan, from Sergei Loznitza, also captures the Euromaidan movement of 2013 and 2014 in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv, from the peaceful rallies to the bloody confrontations between police and citizens. It was filmed during the protests and depicts different aspects of the revolution, from peaceful rallies to bloody clashes between police and civilians.

Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine, from Mark Jonathan Harris and Oles Sanin, examines the transformative impact of the democratic revolution in Ukraine, which resulted in 10,000 casualties and the displacement of 1.9 million Ukrainians. You can stream the film through Tubi.

Freedom or Death! tracks filmmaker Damian Kolodny as he returns in 2013 to his homeland from New York City to document the violent insurrection and chaos in Ukraine's battle for democracy. Available on Vimeo.