Ukrainian movie about the siege of Mariupol won an Oscar

The movie “20 Days in Mariupol” by Ukrainian director Mstislav Chernov has won an Oscar in the Best Feature Documentary category.

The picture tells about the life of the second largest city in the Donetsk region of Ukraine during the first days of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The movie was shot by a team of Associated Press reporters, including director Chernov, photographer Yevhen Maloletka and producer Vasilisa Stepanenko.

“This is the first Oscar in Ukrainian history. It’s an honor for me. But I’m probably the first director in history who will say, standing on this stage, “I wish this movie didn’t exist”, Chernov said at the award ceremony in Los Angeles.

He said he would give the award so that Russia would never attack Ukraine, “never seize our cities, never kill tens of thousands of Ukrainians, never hold hostages – civilians and soldiers who were defending their land”.

Chernov noted that it will not be possible to change history, but “we have to make sure that history is recorded correctly”. “The truth will triumph. And the people in Mariupol and those who gave their lives will never be forgotten. Movies form memories, and memories form history”, Chernov concluded.

“20 Days in Mariupol” was filmed by the American public television channel PBS in partnership with the Associated Press. Before the Oscars, it had already won numerous awards, including the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and the Directors Guild of America. It has also been given the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and the Tim Hetherington Award at the Sheffield Film Festival. At the DocEdge Film Festival, it won Best International Director and Best International Editing awards.

Russia besieged Mariupol on February 25, 2022, and continued fighting for the city until May 16 of that year, when all Ukrainian military personnel stationed at the Azovstal plant surrendered. Ukrainian authorities estimate that at least 22,000-25,000 civilians were killed during the fighting for Mariupol, of whom 5,000–7,000 died under the rubble.

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