A Rising Fury follows two hopeful Ukrainian idealists from the peaceful protest in Kyiv in 2013 to the full-scale Russian invasion to Ukraine in 2022. Pavlo and Svitlana met and fell in love at the Maidan Revolution and were filmed for almost 9 years with several expeditions to the frontlines of the war. When Russia invades Crimea and Donbas in 2014, Pavlo loses his family home and joins the Ukrainian military effort. To defend his nation, he engages in deadly firefights against former friends and a close military instructor who join Russian forces. As Svitlana transports food and medical supplies, both find themselves on the battle lines, protecting their land, democracy, and their relationship.
For many of us in the West, our full attention was drawn to the war in Ukraine in February 2022 following the full on invasion by Putin’s Russian forces. This documentary highlights that the Ukrainian people’s struggle for independence has been a life-long struggle for many.
It can be confusing to see images of Ukrainian soldiers in the midst of heated battle and remember the film is not set in 2022 but some five-six years earlier. A horrifying testament to the endless cycle of war.
The sad irony here is that this documentary was meant to be about peace not war.
Some of the most fascinating documentaries are born when an incident occurs which causes a dramatic shift in the narrative. For example, Wrestling With Shadows where filmmakers were making a movie about Bret Hart and were there for the infamous Montreal Screwjob moment. Or Katy Perry: Part Of Me, where a standard tour documentary captures the dissolution of Perry’s marriage to Russell Brand.
Director Lesya Kalynska set out to film the Euromaidan protests in November 2013. They began following President Viktor Yanukovych and the Azarov government’s sudden decision not to sign the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement. Those peaceful protests turned violent when special forces moved in to disperse the crowds. This would lead to the Revolution of Dignity in 2014.
Kaslynska and co-director Batytskyi would spend the next nine years documenting the rising fury and conflict. Focused through the eyes of Svitlana and Pavlov. Two people who met and fell in love on the frontlines of the Maidan fight. There are an increasing number of films being released shining a spotlight on Ukraine. This one provides the audience with a real human connection to the struggle and builds a stronger emotional response to the unfolding drama.
It is a testament to the unwavering strength of the Ukrainian people. At one point during a break in battle, Pavlov attempts to explain that strength and why Ukraine will ultimately persevere. Comparing themselves to the war in Afghanistan. “In Afghanistan they were hoping someone would save them. That’s why they lost. We never relied on outside help… so we will fight whether or not someone else supports us. We depend on ourselves, not anyone else.”
It is inspiring to see that resilience but it is tinged with sadness as the film ends on a poignant note. At a 2021 event celebrating thirty years of Ukrainian independence, Pavlov is asked if a bigger war is coming. “One hundred percent. Putin is not going to leave us alone.”
Seeing what has come to pass, that prophetic statement hits hard. A Rising Fury is a compelling look at the people and country who are still fighting. Sadly the film is not a full stop on the subject. Merely one chapter is an ongoing story we do not know the ending to.
Director: Lesya Kalynska & Ruslan Batytskyi
Runtime: 82 minutes