Watching 20 Days in Mariupol hurts and it must hurt

Watching “20 Days in Mariupol” hurts. and it must hurt

It's not a pleasant experience watching “20 Days in Mariupol,” the documentary filmed by reporter Mstyslav Chernov in the Ukrainian coastal city during Russia's siege in February and March 2022. This Oscar nominee film released on Filmin is no fun. because everything is such a raw truth that it upsets you. Within a few minutes, a girl had already died in front of the camera: four-year-old Evangelina. Then it will be Kiril, at 18 months. The dead are named here. “It hurts. But it has to hurt,” admits the award-winning photojournalist from the AP agency, who decided to stay there when the rest of the press left and was the only Western eyes in the country for almost three weeks in the face of this Barbarism. And he tells what he sees and records in a quiet voice, almost a whisper; often as if his thoughts were slipping away.

Chernov bravely travels through the devastated places in Mariupol from the beginning of the bombing raids to the takeover of the entire city or its ruins by the tanks with the Z (with the exception of the Azov Valley steelworks, where fierce fighting continued until May). He focuses on the civilian population, on their fear, on their hopelessness, on their lack of communication. In the stress of being locked in shelters, in the fear of hearing the noise of an airplane, in the macabre lottery of rockets hitting residential areas. At the bloodied pregnant woman who was carried on a stretcher (her name was Irina Kalinina, 32 years old, she died and so did her unborn child) after the cruel bomb attack on a maternity hospital. With the guys who throw piles of bodies into mass graves. With children who cry and cry out of fear because they are orphans or because they see the rubble of their house. In a man who carries all his possessions in a cart because there is nothing left of where he lived. The doctors and firefighters are the big heroes of these stories.

With no electricity or water, no internet, no cell phones that function other than as flashlights, neighbors are busy trying to survive without knowing exactly what is happening, and there is little news from outside. We sense your confusion. And Chernov, who comes from Kharkiv (about 400 kilometers north of here), thinks of his daughters when he sees other daughters suffering; he sees himself in others because he is one of them.

In an image from the documentary, Irina Kalinina, a 32-year-old pregnant woman, is carried on a stretcher after being injured in the bombing of the Mariupol maternity hospital.Irina Kalinina, a 32-year-old pregnant woman, is carried on a stretcher after being injured in the bombing of the Mariupol maternity hospital, in an image from the documentary. Mstyslav Chernov

During those 20 days of Russian siege, the journalist took advantage of the rare occasions when he managed to connect (via satellite or in a corner where there was a trace of Internet) to send 10- or 12-second-long video fragments to AP to send. These images had a huge impact worldwide. The end of the documentary shows his complicated exit from the destroyed city with the collected material, a treasure that he could have lost at some checkpoint. Then Moscow clumsily tried to discredit the reporter by saying (its official spokesmen, its TV channels and its propagandists) that the scenes we learned about thanks to him were filmed with actors, that it was a montage . That convinced almost no one. This documentary, so honest and so little edited, is convincing.

What can decide the war in Europe is patience: Putin has shown that he has what it takes. If the West hesitates on Ukraine, if Trump, Orbán and Co. impose their will by undermining allies' support for Kiev, if we stop paying attention because there is another terrible war in Palestine, the world will become even darker be. One of the most feared enemies, in Mariupol as in Khan Yunis, is the indifference of those who believe that all this is not for them.

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