1705474548 20 days in Mariupol or how not to take your

“20 days in Mariupol” or how not to take your eyes off the pain of others

Mstyslav Chernov is primarily a photographer. But the fact that he was born 39 years ago in Ukraine immediately and involuntarily turns him into a war reporter. It was in Donbas and also in Crimea. Like so many other international correspondents, what struck him most was the silence that precedes the moments before war. At this moment the tragedy has already begun, although the first outcry has not yet arrived. The Ukrainian photojournalist was one of the last reporters to leave Mariupol when Russian troops besieged the city in February 2022. The reporting he did with three other colleagues for the Associated Press agency won them the 2023 Pulitzer Prize.

In the weeks he stayed in his country, he recorded so much material (and had so few opportunities to send it out using the limited internet connection he had) that when he returned, he edited it all into one 95-minute Documentary summarized. Of the nearly 30 hours recorded, only 30 minutes were broadcast on these days in 2022. The feature film begins and ends with the silence that so touches the audience.

“20 Days in Mariupol” expands coverage in Ukraine, winner of the 2023 Pulitzer Prize.“20 Days in Mariupol” Expands Coverage in Ukraine, 2023 Pulitzer Prize Winner.mstyslav chernov

In 20 Days in Mariupol (already available in the Filmin catalog) there is hardly any self-censorship. There is also no morbidity. His pictures are as explicit as they are sober. So does the narration that comes from Chernov's voice, sometimes in the first person, and mentions his two daughters. He practically whispers his statement, as if easing the burden of what he had experienced with a close and friendly ear. It is the diary of a tragedy without drama or artifice.

During these 20 horror fragments, his camera is obsessed with the civilian victims. It shows citizens filling the mass graves that they had to dig themselves with the bodies of their neighbors. Thousands of people are desperate due to isolation and the lack of food and electricity. Members of the security forces were completely overwhelmed. Also the professional and paradoxically empathetic coldness of the health workers… The fortitude of almost all civilians, including children, is astonishing.

Mstyslav ChernovIn while reporting before the Russian offensive in Ukraine.Mstyslav ChernovIn while reporting ahead of the Russian offensive in Ukraine.Felipe Dana (AP)

This expanded version of the award-winning reporting is one of the titles almost guaranteed to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary. Since its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival just a year ago, the film has hit screens at festivals around the world, from Copenhagen's CPH:DOX in the spring to Prianka Chopra's revamped Mumbai Film Festival through the end of 2023. The more the more information about the Ukraine fades in the daily media, the more important is the presence of this documentation, which ensures that the loud presentation of the facts does not result in indifference.

As the saying goes, “Whoever wins the information war wins the war,” is recalled in the documentary. And as Susan Sonntag defended and journalist Maruja Torres now repeats daily and in her own words, if she refuses to look away in the face of the attacks in Gaza, we must allow the cruel images to haunt us. Until our eyes bleed.

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