NEW YORK -- Potentially fascinating subject matter is given awkward treatment in Andrei Zagdansky's documentary about the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine and the so-called "Orange Revolution" that followed the disputed results. Despite such dramatic elements as the near-fatal poisoning of the one of the candidates and a censored television broadcaster surreptitiously revealing the truth via sign language for the deaf, "Orange Winter" is strangely tedious. The film recently received its U.S. theatrical premiere at New York's Pioneer Theater.
Even American audiences nonversed in Ukrainian politics will no doubt recall the poisoning of candidate Viktor Yushchenko with dioxin, resulting in his severe facial scarring. The pro-Western opponent of the government-supported Viktor Yanukovich (the outgoing president, fearful of being brought up on corruption charges, wanted a hand-picked successor), he was defeated in an election that was universally seen as corrupt.
For the next two weeks, citizens took to the streets in mass demonstrations, adopting the color orange as a show of support for the defeated candidate. Their efforts resulted in a recount that got Yushchenko installed in office.
Unfortunately, the innate drama of the events is diluted here by the filmmaker's unimaginative approach and the droning narration. Even running a scant 72 minutes, the film is unnecessarily padded, to less than relevant effect, with extensive clips from the classic silent film "Earth" and scenes from operas that were performed in the city during the events in question.