The presidential candidate was poisoned. The election was stolen. The citizens were determined. In the freezing cold, around the clock, a million people brought Ukraine to a standstill. What would you do if your vote were stolen?
Not so much "Frontline" calibre as third-rate Michael Moore, "Orange Revolution" presents an entirely one-sided and consequently dull look at its titular subject matter. Filmmakers employ Propaganda 101 techniques, including showing cute girls supporting the Orange side before cutting away to exclusively loathsome alcoholic toads supporting Yanukovich. Evidence for the Orange party's accusations of election rigging, which should have been easy to come by (read Andrew Wilson's "Ukraine's Orange Revolution" for a good low-down), is barely presented in this film, ironically planting a seed of doubt in the open-minded viewer's head over whether Yushchenko really was in the right to protest. That's an unfortunate impression to leave with. In a rare moment of balanced nuance, the film offers a scroll-over at the end explaining that Yushchenko and Yanukovich were (at the time the film was made) still squabbling as prez and PM respectively, and that the Ukrainian press, now free, assigned equal blame to both sides. This would make the Ukrainian press more balanced than the producers of this documentary.
All that said, it was a treat to see the footage from the demonstrations. The film--like any documentary--is at its best when showing the raw and real history of the moment. If only they had shown more of the speeches and the demonstrators themselves. But unfortunately nothing that is shown seems to have been presented in its full context, which casts everything the film says into doubt, and thus trivializes a truly amazing moment in history.
I have not seen the DVD "Crossroads - Ukraine and the Triumph of Democracy," which seems to have been well-received by at least one Amazon critic. But sight unseen I can tell you one thing "Crossroads" did right that "Orange Revolution" didn't. "Crossroads" got Ruslana, the hottie who sang Ukraine's Eurovision 2004-winning "Wild Dances" (and who months later became an Orange Revolutionary herself) to share her perspective. Now that's something I want to see. In fact, I just ordered my copy.
Winner, President's Award, Chicago, International Doc Festival, 2007; Official Selection, Toronto, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival, 2007; Official Selection, San Francisco International Film Festival, 2007; Official Selection, Seattle International Film Festival, 2007; Official Selection, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, 2007; Official Selection, DOCNZ New Zealand International Documentary Film Festival, 2007; Official Selection, United Nations Association Film Festival, 2007; Official Selection, Calgary International Film Festival, 2007; Official Selection, Los Angeles, AFI Fest; and, Official Selection, Milwaukee International Film Festival, 2007.
Assembled from over 300 hours of original footage, the events chronicled in this outstanding DVD are recent enough in history to ensure that most readers of this review probably retain clear recollections from "one of the most peaceful" revolutions of the past decade. They can probably recall incredulous images of a man (Viktor Yushchenko)--the before and the after shots--the before (while running for President of Ukraine); the after (his pockmarked face after being poisoned by dioxin--Agent Orange, a few days before the election). Those photos (like the phrase "shot heard round the world" from Ralph Waldo Emerson's memorable opening stanza of Concord Hymn) made it around the world within seconds; those events leading up to the Orange Revolution would go down in history. And, Orange Revolution (the DVD) would chronicle the events and, in the process, itself, make history.
President Viktor Yushchenko officially took office on January 23, 2005. The journey that took him there was surreal. The November, 2004 elections in Ukraine would not only go down in infamy, but they would also hold audiences throughout the world riveted and captive to the Internet, their TVs, their cell phones, and the print media. However, there were ominous events that precipitated that November, 2004 election--the disappearance/beheading of Ukrainian journalist, Hryhorii (Georgiy) Gongadze years earlier.
Included in the DVD are interviews (usually in English; when in Ukrainian, English subtitles are provided) with: Olena Prytula, Editor, Ukrainska Pravda; Serhiy Kudelia, Journalist; Myroslava Gongadze, Wife of Hryhorii (Georgiy); Andriy Ignatov, Editor, [...]; Volodymyr Ariev, Investigative Reporter; Taras Stetskin, Yushchenko Campaign Staff; Serhiy Rakhmanin, Journalist; Oleh Rybachuk, Chief of Staff, Yushchenko Campaign; Andriy Shevchenko, Chanel 5 TV anchor; Yevhen Chernonenko, Security Chief, Yushchenko Campaign; Rostyslan Pavlenko, Political Consultant, Yushchenko Campaign; Oleh Skrypka, Musician; David Zhvaniya, Yushchenko Campaign Staff; Anastasia Bezverkha, PORA Press Secretary; Roman Bezsmertny, Yushchenko Campaign Staff; Mykola Katerynchuk, Legal Counsel, Yushchenko Campaign Staff; Yuriy Lutsenko, Yushchenko Campaign Staff; General Oleksandr Savchenko, Commander, Kyiv District Police; Andriy Mahera, Member, Central Election Commission; Ihor Smeshko, Chief, Security Services; Volodymyr Filenko, Yushchenko Campaign Staff; Andriy Yosypovych Mahera, Central Election Commission Member; and, Olena Lukash, Election Commission Defense Counsel.
Also included are video clips of Leonid Kuchma, President of Ukraine; Vladimir Putin, President of Russia; Yulia Tymoshenko, Campaign Coalition Partner; Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainian presidential candidate and main government opposition candidate; and, Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainian presidential candidate handpicked by the corrupt sitting President Kuchma. Election fraud played a major role in that presidential contest, and the public outrage and protests that ensued led to the Orange Revolution.
Witnessing the unending sea of humanity, the sea of orange flags, and the sea of Ukrainian blue and yellow flags, it's difficult to comprehend the audacity of the government officials in trying to pull off a scam on the electorate. But then, it wasn't that long before that Ukraine had been Soviet Ukraine--remnants of that system of lies remained; shackles were difficult to break. This is the story of the courageous citizens and the courageous presidential candidate who prevailed.
Experience the emotions of the 40,000 university students who marched in support of their candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. Experience the angst of over one million Ukrainian citizens who took to the streets in support of their candidate, Viktor Yushchenko. Experience the lives of university students and others who set up their tent city within Kyiv. Experience the determination of the multitudes of citizens who rearranged their personal lives and arrived in Kyiv from throughout Ukraine with their local flags announcing their home cities (Lviv, Poltava, etc.). Experience the support from citizens from around the world (Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone, among others). Experience the exhaustion of the residents of the tent city. Experience the never-ending spirit of camaraderie and support at the nightly musical pep rallies. Experience the warmth of the impromptu pot fires set up to warm chilled hands. Experience the chants of the Ukrainian citizens: "hello; good evening" (when local police reinforcements came); "police are with the people" (as they placed flowers on police shields); "you're our guys" (as police entered buses and waved to the citizens); "the court is with the people," "Yushchenko," "Tak," "Together we are many! We cannot be defeated!" (which was to become the theme song of the Orange Revolution). Experience never-ending encouragement, even as you see the word TAK! (Yes!) scooped out of snow on a snow-ladened park bench. Experience the majesty of Kyiv as snow-capped firs and buildings and people add local color to God's landscaped artistry. Experience the music. Experience the Orange Revolution....
My personal connection with the Orange Revolution is that of being in the audience when Orange Revolution screened in Chicago at the International Documentary Festival in 2007. I remember being in the lobby and seeing Director Steve York and his crew as they awaited the screening. They, I, and numerous others in the crowd that evening wore orange. The anticipation was extremely expectant; the ensuing thunderous, appreciative applause and standing ovation, amid tears, said it all.
Just as a popular film may have a number of versions with different casts, but only one receives many academy awards, so, too, with the various documentaries on the Orange Revolution. There are a number of DVDs which chronicle the events leading up to the Orange Revolution, but the DVD, Orange Revolution, is a standout among many--and, deservedly so! Orange Revolution meticulously chronicles all of the events in an easy-to-follow/easy-to-comprehend, but most importantly, objective, accurate accounting of history. Steve York and his crew did an outstanding job! This documentary should be included in history curriculums worldwide! See other documentaries as an appetizer; see Orange Revolution as the entrée and the dessert!
Addendum: Readers, you're invited to visit each of my reviews--most of them have photos that I took in Ukraine (over 600)--you'll learn lots about Ukraine and Ukrainians. The image gallery shows smaller photos, which are out of sequence. The preferable way is to see each review through my profile page since photos that are germane to that particular book/VHS/DVD are posted there with notes and are in sequential order.
To visit my reviews: click on my pseudonym, Mandrivnyk, to get to my profile page; click on the tab called review; scroll to the bottom of the section, and click on see all reviews; click on each title, and on the left-hand side, click on see all images. The thumbnail images at the top of the page show whether photos have notes; roll your mouse over the image to find notes posted.
Also, you're invited to visit my Listmania lists, which have materials sorted by subject matter.