It’s easy to be confused about what’s happening in Ukraine because so much has happened in the last year and a half. To understand all the tumultuous events it’s important to realize that it’s all part of one drama. The war in Donbas may be dominating the headlines today, but it’s really a backlash to the Euromaidan revolution. That’s when a new generation of Ukrainians demanded a change in their country, for which they were willing to sacrifice their lives.
The documentary Generation Maidan, by eight-time Emmy winner Andrew Tkach, captures their story. You can see it online for the nominal fee of $1 on Vimeo here, or for free on the YouTube channel of Messy Media, or in Ukrainian here.
Generation Maidan has real-time footage of all the action, from the peaceful protests in Kyiv that grew into a self-governing liberated zone, to the dogged determination of Ukrainian protestors who withstood sniper attacks by government forces and emerged victorious.
Andrew Tkach came to film events in Ukraine with UK’s Channel 4 just after the violence peaked. His crew on the ground was Babylon’13, a collective of voluntary filmmakers capturing history in the making. He knew immediately he wanted to make a documentary with them. The first 30 minutes of Generation Maidan are built from 50 hours of Babylon’s footage and his interviews. But events quickly spiraled into war.
Andrew knew he had to come back, not to cover the news but to find strong characters who could explain what was happening. The second half of the film follows the Maidan activists who were seized and tortured by the separatist forces in Donbas and those who volunteered to fight them on the frontline.
Euromaidan Press: How did you get the idea to make the documentary?
Andrew Tkach: I was always interested in Ukraine. During the Orange Revolution I covered Ukraine with Christiane Amanpour for 60 minutes. I’ve also been to Russia many times, trying to understand how a relatively minor KGB operative was able to end the great democratic experiment in Russia. I think it’s very important to be able to show this part of the world in depth. The way that Russia is challenging democratic norms in Europe alone makes it a critical story. But what’s even more important – will the revolution in Ukraine succeed?
Euromaidan Press: What do you think?
Andrew Tkach: There’s no way to predict that. It already succeeded in overthrowing the old regime – Yanukovych and the oligarchs. Paraphrasing Hanna Arendt, Generation Maidan challenged the absolute power that existed with the willingness to sacrifice their own lives. Because as soon as an autocratic government resorts to violence, it is delegitimized, loses its absolute power – the power passes to the people, and more so if there is sacrifice and death. If the people are able to take collective action, the power passes to them.This was the first step of the narrative. The second one is the people that opposed the change of the regime, the people in the East, who were very much instigated by Russia, and the war. For me, Ukraine is the most important story in Eastern Europe, and it is far from over. There is a revolution that has not been fulfilled yet. It is challenging the old regime, the vast corrupted enterprise. Generation Maidan are the 30-somethings that experienced the Orange Revolution, but are not going to be as passive, that are going to make sure that the gains will be solidified – people like Hopko, Nayem who are challenging the power of the oligarchy and political class,. All that will continue. And we have a Russian invasion – all this make it important. The historical processes are still going on, and that’s why I’m interested in following it to the end. Both battles are unpredictable and fundamentally critical.
Euromaidan Press: How did you get the idea to use your film to raise money for prosthetics?
Andrew Tkach: I could see that the world was less and less interested in Ukraine, and I decided that I could make good use of the film and help the people who need it the most. I contacted Antonina Kumka, who runs the Ukraine Prosthetic Assistance Project which was highly recommended. All the proceeds from viewing the film go there. I’m not getting any financial remuneration whatsoever. Also, I just wanted the world to have access to the documentary. There is a war of narratives going around the revolution, and I think this kind of document gives a very clear answer to many questions instead of going into polemics. I consciously didn’t use any narration in the piece. The idea is that you’re watching a process where you’re naturally experiencing through the participants.
Euromaidan Press: Some people in Ukraine now wonder if it would have been better had there been no Maidan…
Andrew Tkach: If there was no Maidan, there would have been a continuation of the Yanukovych autocracy. It was either continuing the life that Ukraine had already lived for the last 20 years, or using the chance to change the system. Nobody could have predicted that there would be a war, or that Russia would fuel the fire. You can’t worry about that now, you have to continue pushing history in a positive direction. History never stops; it keeps going forward when people are willing to organize and make their contribution. So, the best step now is to organize politically, and, unfortunately, organize militarily.Interview by Alya Shandra