Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘A Rising Fury,’ Ukraine at War

A rising furyThe strongest images of are cinema truth

A rising fury is cinema verité in its most striking images of events captured in Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. The documentary A rising fury collects first-hand accounts of battles and evacuations before Russia invaded Kyiv in February 2022. A Tribeca Film Festival film, it is currently screening on Tribeca at home.

Directed by Lesya Kalynska, who also wrote and produced the film with director and producer Ruslan Batytskyi, the film begins with shots of the bombed Donetsk airport. By that time in 2015, pro-Russian separatists were already occupying Crimea and fighting the Ukrainians for control of eastern cities. Following various Ukrainians in their fight against Russian aggression, the cameras focus on Ukrainian soldier Pavlo Pavliv and his girlfriend Svetlana Karabut. More and more, A rising fury uses the couple’s views and comments as an anchor.

The filmmakers show footage of events in eastern Ukraine where Pavlo Pavliv lived as a teenager. Using extensive flashbacks and archival footage, they reveal information that highlights Vladimir Putin’s intentions to destroy Ukraine as a republic, which were only clarified six years after the takeover. power of Putin in Russia. Using flashbacks of student protests and images of Ukrainians fighting during the 2013 Maidan revolution against the backdrop, the film reveals the story of Pavlo Pavliv.

It begins with his military training sessions with a man 20 years his senior who mentored him. In 2007, Pavliv joined the Strikeball Club led by Igor, a Ukrainian with military experience. The useful operations he learned in the game enabled him to defend himself and help others escape death during the Maidan revolution in 2013.

Clips of Senator John McCain with protesters

With the peaceful Maidan protest, Ukrainians affirmed their right to join the EU and completely break with Russian influence. Surprisingly, we see Senator John McCain in Kyiv at this time. Clips show the Republican proclaiming that America stands with Ukraine in its assertion of independence. McCain suggests that Putin is trying to control the nation through his leader Viktor Yanukovych and that McCain’s support for Ukraine is meant to help challenge the Russian leader.

It was obvious to the Ukrainians that Putin was in control of Yanukovych. Students and citizens have called for Yanukovych’s resignation after his decision not to join the European Union. As the protests turned into a spirited revolutionary celebration, Yanukovych’s government attacked the protesters. Cinéma Vérité footage shows special forces beating and shooting protesters. Yanukovych’s attack units killed more than 50 innocent citizens and trained others. The film includes voiceovers of Ukrainians during the fighting and the burning of Kyiv. Those interviewed affirm Ukraine’s independence and say they will die rather than submit to Putin’s dictates.

The filmmakers actually tell the story of Russia’s oppression of Ukraine so briefly. In footage of the funerals of those who died in the Maidan protests and footage of celebrations of Ukraine’s independence from the USSR, we hear Ukrainian activists speak. Pavliv is the main one of these voices.

The historical oppression of Ukraine by Russia

These people refer to Russia’s history of oppression, explaining that after the Russian Revolution and World War I, Leninists prevented Ukrainian independence. They also refer to Stalin’s extermination effort against the Ukrainian people during the Holodomor, the Great Famine. They imply that, like the oppressors before him, Putin will not stop. Yet they assert their independence.

Pavliv recounts the revelations of his mentor Igor and the Strikeball Club. Under Igor’s mentorship and guidance, Ukrainians in their twenties created the best Strikeball team of fighters in the game. Igor taught them military techniques and weapons. Indeed, the members of the club formed a powerful and close-knit community.

Curiously, during the Maidan, Igor did not commit to fight for Ukraine. This surprised Pavliv. Then, as pro-Russian separatists began to fight in eastern Ukraine and Pavliv helped evacuate families from the area, Igor contacted him. He suggested Pavliv join his former Strikeball team as a pro-Russian separatist to fight Ukraine. Charmingly, Igor used his ties of friendship to offer him “crazy” money and a position as captain of his own combat unit. In exchange, Pavliv would kill Ukrainians and help take over eastern Ukraine as a pro-Russian Ukrainian separatist.

Putin’s long-term invasion plans

While searching for Igor, Pavliv discovers that his mentor and friend is an agent of the FSB (Russian military intelligence). Now he understands Igor’s motives for undermining Ukrainian resolve and rejecting Pavliv’s loyalty to Ukraine during the Maidan. Igor cultivated his team of young Ukrainians, disguising himself as a Ukrainian. Purposefully, he worked to strengthen their minds and spirits to bond as a fighting unit. While Igor was one of many Russian operatives working hard to create Ukrainian pro-Russian separatists to betray Ukraine.

This long-term plan, launched in 2007 with the Strikeball Club, materialized after the invasion of Crimea. Pavliv reveals as a lie Putin’s insistence that pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists wanted their part of Ukraine returned to the Russian Federation. But the plan worked well enough that young Ukrainians in Strikeball clubs, cultivated by agents like Igor, worked to betray their country. In exchange for friendship, money and power offered by FSB agents, young Ukrainians still identify themselves today as pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists. Essentially, Putin created this Ukrainian civil war to keep Ukraine Russian.

Under the banner of lies, the Ukrainian fighting force of Putin’s traitors is today undermining its own country and killing its own people. How? Brainwashing, money, power, camaraderie.

The truth breaks Pavliv’s heart

When Pavliv realizes the truth, it breaks her heart. Igor warned Pavliv that Yanukovych’s security forces would attack and crush the protesters. Indeed, Pavliv remembers how Igor stayed away during the Maidan. It was then that Igor’s FSB units worked with Yanukovych’s security forces. However, Pavliv defended the Maidan, one of the few in the Strikeball team to do so.

Ironically, neither Yanukovych, Putin nor the FSB understood the unshakeable will of Ukrainians to die for freedom and independence. For Pavliv to accept that Igor tricked him took courage and sustained pain. As Pavliv’s girlfriend Svetlana suggests, this diabolical FSB tactic manifested itself in the way Igor used friendship, love and camaraderie. This is the way of the FSB and Putin. Hired to implement Putin’s long-term plan to obliterate Ukraine and bring it back under its dictatorship, Igor was successful with many of Pavliv’s Strikeball teammates. But Igor failed with Pavliv and a few others willing to die for Ukraine.

Double agents

To support their research into Igor’s identity, the filmmakers track down evidence of his former employment with the Communist Party of the Russian Federation as a KGB agent. They blow up the Russian plan to attract young Ukrainians to their side. However, the truth about their co-optation and cultivation of Ukrainians to be pro-Russian separatists and kill their own remains hidden. Through Pavliv’s testimony, the filmmakers expose one of Putin’s biggest lies and reveal the depth of Putin’s lust for Ukraine.

Pavliv lost his buddies to Putin’s war. Behind Igor, Yanukovych and other officials and world leaders, Putin pays well to create traitors and compromises. Unlike Pavliv, most of his former Strikeball Club team stuck together to kill Ukrainians.

Exposing Putin’s Lies

Filmmakers reveal Ukrainians’ willingness to thwart Putin and die for their country. The film also shows how Putin uses co-optation as a method to subvert integrity, loyalty and patriotism. Indeed, Putin’s attempt to cooperate with far-right conservative parties in the United States, Hungary, Turkey and other countries to subvert their democracies lives on today. Russian FSB double agents and Russian ringleader Putin use co-opting techniques, emotions, friendships, love, bonds, money and power remain the linchpin of this important must-see film. Currently, A rising fury screens on Tribeca at home.