As 20 days in Mariupol It tragically shows that as long as war lasts, there will be war documentaries.
First-time filmmaker Mstislav Chernov’s work is a particularly immersive example of the genre, chronicling the weeks-long siege of a notorious Ukrainian city by Russian forces.Journalist Chernov Associated Pressand his colleague, photographer Evgeny Malloretka, traveled to the port city in late February 2022, convinced that its strategic location would be a prime target. They were right when they started attacking. The resulting footage forms the gist of this documentary, jointly presented by AP and PBS. front line Won the world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.
20 days in Mariupol
Demanding but necessary viewing.
venue: Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema Documentary Competition)
directed by: Mstislav Chernov
1 hour 35 minutes
The filmmakers capture the shock and agony of the population exposed to sudden artillery fire. Shortly after, not all of them were happy to see the journalists, and some reacted with hostility to their presence. doing. “Their country is under attack. It’s our country too. And we have to tell that story.”
And take a fair personal risk and tell the story they did. I see a video of a frightened girl whining, “I don’t want to die, I want it to end soon.” A father grieving over the body of his teenage son who was killed while playing soccer. Doctors are desperately trying to treat the casualties, plagued by a shortage of antibiotics and painkillers. The corpse of a small baby wrapped in a sheet. burial in mass graves; and people resort to looting out of despair and, in some cases, out of greed. As one doctor put it, war tends to bring out both the good and the bad in people.
It’s heartbreaking to watch footage of four men carrying a bloodied pregnant woman on a stretcher from a bombed maternity hospital (later we learn that both she and the unborn child died). Infuriatingly, Russian leaders and media claim that this scene and all others are nothing more than staged propaganda to rally the world to the Ukrainian cause. As Chernov and others point out in the film, this makes their coverage all the more important to counter Russian disinformation.
At one point, Chernov and his colleagues were rescued by Ukrainian soldiers from a hospital where they had been trapped by snipers. Soldiers were sent to retrieve journalists to prevent them from being captured by Russian forces and were tortured to make false confessions about their footage being faked. The harrowing footage unfolds like a scene from a Michael Bay movie, with soldiers and journalists running through the streets under heavy gunfire.
The raw footage is largely unembellished, save for Jordan Dykstra’s macabre electronic score. 20 days in Mariupol in some sense). That immediacy only enhances the instinctive power of the documentary. Beyond the tragedy of mankind, what most vividly conveys is the importance of the war correspondent and the courage and ingenuity required to work in life-threatening conditions.
Chernov was in Mariupol for less than three weeks. As you can see in the on-screen text, the city fell into Russian hands 86 days after him. It is estimated that about 25,000 people died, but the number was probably much higher. The war is not over, so there will be many more documentaries like this one.