10:24 20.01.2023

The world premiere of the Ukrainian film "20 days in Mariupol" will take place on January 20 at Sundance, the main independent film festival in the world

5 min read

The feature documentary "20 Days in Mariupol" by Ukrainian journalist, writer, and now director Mstislav Chernov was included in the program of the American Sundance film festival. On January 20, the world premiere of the author's debut film will be held in Park City (USA). The film tells how Mariupol experienced the first weeks of the Russian invasion — shelling, deaths of civilians, the bombing of a maternity hospital. After the first screening on 20.01, the film team will speak with the audience. During the festival there will be altogether 6 screenings. More details on the website of the festival. (Video presentation of the film by Mstislav Chernov here

The film created by Chernov, Associated Press and Frontline, will compete with 11 other documentaries from around the world in the World Cinema Documentary Competition category, including another Ukrainian film, "Iron Butterflies" by Roman Liubyi.

Mstislav Chernov, along with photographer Yevhen Maloletka and producer Vasilisa Stepanenko as an Associated Press team arrived in Mariupol on February 24, an hour before the start of the invasion. They recorded everything that was happening in the city, including the humanitarian disaster caused by the siege, mass burials of civilians, crimes committed by the Russian troops, the work of doctors, and were the first to show the world the consequences of the bombing of maternity hospital No. 3. Chernov and Maloletka would send the media files, which were later watched by the whole world, hiding under the stairs near the destroyed grocery store - from the only place in Mariupol where connection was still possible to find.

"Very often we came across deaths of children, and it's hard to forget. All the children who were brought to the hospital and whom we filmed, they all died, — Yevhen Maloletka recalled. — These are the children who were in our footage — both 15-year-old and three-month-old babies. They all died as a result of shelling."

On March 15, the AP team left Mariupol through the humanitarian corridor. The video footage that Chernov took out of Mariupol became the basis of the documentary.

"The lack of information in the conditions of the blockade has two purposes. The first is chaos. People do not understand what is happening and panic. The second is impunity, —  explains the author of "20 days in Mariupol" Mstislav Chernov. — Without footage of destroyed buildings and dying children, Russian troops could do whatever they wanted. If it weren't for us, there wouldn't be such footage. That's why we took the risk to show the world what we saw."

The film from the materials of the Ukrainian journalist was created by the team of Frontline — the longest-running documentary film program in the history of the United States. It is broadcast on the PBS channel (USA). Since its inception, Frontline has won 104 Emmy Awards.

«Те, що українці побачили, було не чим іншим, як жахом і трагедією, і крізь об’єктив Мстислава у надісланих відеофайлах це задокументовано одночасно непохитно та співчутливо, — розповідає монтажерка фільму Мішель Мізнер. — Я ніколи не плакала так багато, монтуючи відео. Ніколи не була так спустошена емоціями. Але також ніколи так не надихалася роботою відеографа, що з таким баченням і рішучістю розповідає історію своєї країни під час війни».

"What the Ukrainians saw was nothing short of horror and tragedy, and through the lens of Mstislav in the video files sent, it was documented both steadfastly and sympathetically," — says the film's editor, Michelle Mizner. — I have never cried so much while logging footage. I have never been so wrecked by rushes. But also, I have never been so inspired by the work of a videographer who tells the story of his country during the war with such vision and determination."

For their work in Mariupol, Mstislav Chernov, Yevhen Maloletka and Vasylisa Stepanenko have already received many international awards: the Livingstone Award, the Rory Peck Award, the Royal Television Society Award, the DW Freedom of Speech Award, the Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Award, the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award, the Georgy Gongadze Award, the Knight International Journalism Award, Press Freedom Awards 2022.

"The work of Mstislav Chernov and his colleagues in documenting the siege of Mariupol was nothing less than heroic," — said AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Julie Pace. — "Without their courageous coverage of violence and carnage, the world would not have seen what was happening."

The Sundance festival, where "20 days in Mariupol" will be shown, will be held from January 19 to 29 in Park City (USA). In addition to Mstislav Chernov's film, the World Cinema Documentary Competition program included the film "Iron Butterflies" by Ukrainian director, editor and animator Roman Liubyi, about the events surrounding the downing of flight MH17 in 2014.

The Sundance Festival is a national American film festival of independent cinema, one of the most prestigious venues in the world for premieres of original films. Ukrainian films have already received Sundance awards: in 2015, the documentary film "Russian Woodpecker" won the Grand Prix in the same category where Chernov's film is competing. In 2020, Iryna Tsylyk received the Best Director award at the festival for the film "The Earth is Blue Like an Orange". In 2022, “Klondike” won the Best Director in the World Feature Film category, and “House of Chips” won the Best Director, also in the World Cinema Documentary Competition.

Mstislav Chernov is a Ukrainian videographer, photo journalist, director, military correspondent and writer, currently working for the Associated Press. President of the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers. Covered the Revolution of Dignity, the War in Eastern Ukraine, the aftermath of the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, the Syrian Civil War, the Battle of Mosul in Iraq, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Chernov's material has been published and broadcast by many media outlets around the world, including CNN, the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others.