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NY Times Review: Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine

NY Times Review: Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine


The first line of the Ukrainian national anthem is “Ukraine has not yet died,” one interviewee says in “Breaking Point,” a fierce documentary about that country and its recent clashes with Russia. For a land often perched on the edge of ruin, she says, mere survival is something to celebrate.

Directed by Mark Jonathan Harris and Oles Sanin, the film starts with a rundown of a history that has repeated itself for centuries — invaders have long prized Ukraine for its resources and geography, and modern times are no exception.

Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been subject to constant pressure from Russia, whose forces seized Crimea in 2014 then intervened to support armed separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

The filmmakers supply terrifying footage: At civilian rallies, we see nightstick beatings and bloody riots. During military battles, bullets whiz by and explosions shake the cameras. Nerve-racking scenes follow Ukraine’s extraordinarily bold volunteer soldiers.

Just as disturbing is an analysis of Russia’s worldwide fake news campaign, which spreads contradictory reports and Kremlin-friendly propaganda. “The 3/3/2018 Review: ‘Breaking Point’ Finds Fake News and Real Violence in Ukraine - The New York Times 2/2 Russians understand Western media far better than the Western media understands itself,” one interviewee says. “And they play to the Western media’s short attention span.” Another says: “Disinformation destroys reality. The Russians are masters of this — they have built a parallel reality.”

“Breaking Point,” subtitled “The War for Democracy in Ukraine,” ends on an uneasy note, as hostilities with Russia persist and as Ukraine strives to rebuild. All of those interviewed carry anxiety in their voices. They, along with Mr. Harris and Mr. Sanin, know that with this country’s dark past, it’s risky to bet on a bright future.

Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine

Directors Mark Jonathan Harris, Oles Sanin

Writers Mark Jonathan Harris, Paul Wolansky Genre Documentary