Netflix is a figurative treasure trove of acclaimed and absolutely appalling works alike, with both offering their own unique appeal to the typical user, deeply invested in their own procrastination. Each week, ‘Queued for you’ will highlight the newest films and television series to hit Netflix worth taking time away from those supposedly important things like human interaction or sunlight.
Our television screens are almost exclusively occupied by British and American productions, Midsummer Murders and NCIS and the like, respectively. SBS has been for a long the sole bastion for the gems that the non-English speaking nations of the world have to offer. But with Netflix, we have another format for them to flourish.
This week we are looking at Occupied; a socially and politically infused drama brought to us from kind folks in Norway. Occupied, in almost every frame of its 10 episode first season is absolutely brimming with relevant issues. Taking place in the near future, Occupied sees a world where the Middle East is no longer the source of the world’s oil, America (some unbelievably) has achieved energy autonomy, creating all the own energy it requires. Europe, though, is suffering an energy crisis. In response to a supposedly climate change driven hurricane, the idealistic Prime Minister of Norway implements bold plans that would see the whole country running solely off of thorium-based nuclear energy (And yes, apparently thorium is a real thing and not just some screenwriting magic, though it certainly had me googling the moment it was mentioned). Seeing the success of Norway, the EU sanctions a Russian invasion of the Slavic nation – a Russian Occupation, if you will.
That plot summary may have seemed like a mouthful – an intricate tapestry of set up and political turmoil, and it was. There is a lot of exposition to Occupied that is all established early on and admittedly makes the first episode or two a big of a slog, but it definitely ramps up from there, maintaining a frenetic pace throughout. The show is, for the most part – save for the occasional European peculiarity, fairly realistic. The show cements its universe early on and sticks to the rules it establishes.
That universe is, as mentioned, one so politically rife that its almost hard to believe the show ever came to production. Considering the tense state of the current European political landscape, the Russian invasion feels almost too close to home, to plausible, especially considering the war ravaged Ukraine.
Occupation is undoubtedly worth a watch. For anyone who hasn’t seen a European production before, the continent’s typically conversational tone might take some getting used to, but it will be worth it. The show is an electric thriller, maintaining a level of tension throughout. The show’s universe is immersive, and you’ll find yourself utterly engrossed in every frame.
Winter on Fire
Though his chiselled exterior and aptitude to riding shirtless surely has the western world swooning over his Eastern intensity, Vladimir Putin has also almost single handily plunged the world into a second Cold War – though who’s perfect, right?
If you’d turned on the television, or even used a computer at any point in the last couple years, you would have surely read of the state of Ukraine. The Slavic nation has had a hard time; between political upheaval and bloody civil war its people have certainly suffered. Seeing the brooding Russian duke it out in the political theatre detracts from the humanity of the war in the Ukraine and the revolution that started it, from the people giving their lives for an ideal, for their family.
Winter on Fire chronicles the events of the 2013 revolution that kick-started it all, tracing the revolutionaries’ every step from peaceful protest through to a bloody loss of life. It’s a harrowing documentary that does nothing to sugar coat the violence. Every broken bone or life lost is captured, and as such this may not be a film for the faint of heart. Yet it also captures the sheer might of the Ukrainian morale, championing a free nation. Its inspiring watching the people rally.
And this is where Winter on Fire focuses is; on the people, above all else. Narration from those who were there highlight the bloody downturn of events, but also the harrowing heroics of the revolutionaries. Among them, is just a boy – no older than twelve, who was there for every moment of the revolution, chanting for revolution and freedom, and on the front line, Molotov cocktail in hand, when those freedoms were crushed. Its moving to watch someone so young enveloped by the revolutionary sentiment so completely.
Winter on Fire is a deeply personal documentary. We join the crowds chanting for freedom, or squatting in the abandoned buildings, cowering from the militant police, or even on the frontline as bullets fly overhead.
Winter on Fire is heartbreaking, intense and enthralling. Its every moment will have you glued to your screen, chanting alongside the revolutionaries or crying over their losses. Winter on Fire is a must see documentary that sheds light on a war that continues to this day, who’s participants this film captures still walk the streets of Kiev, chanting for revolution.
Okkupert (Occupation) and Winter on Fire are available now on Netflix.