"20 days in Mariupol" nominated for "Oscar" returns to Kosovo as a fragment of crimes in Ukraine

The documentary film, directed by the Ukrainian Mstyslav Chernov, brings the murders and destruction. It is a kind of testament, although only a fragment of the war period and the crimes committed. The first 20 days of the Russian aggression in Mariupol come within the chilling narrative that speaks through heroic confrontation, suffering and fear. "20 days in Mariupol" marking the second anniversary of the outbreak of war in Ukraine has turned one of the spaces of "House of Europe" into a kind of cinema

When it has been a few days more than two years since the start of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, a part of the narrative has come to Pristina through the documentary "20 days in Mariupol". The documentary film, directed by the Ukrainian Mstyslav Chernov, brings the murders and destruction. It is a kind of testament, although only a fragment of the war period and the crimes committed. The first 20 days of the Russian aggression in Mariupol come within the chilling narrative that speaks through heroic confrontation, suffering and fear.

"House of Europe" in marking the second anniversary of the outbreak of the war in Ukraine has turned one of its spaces into a kind of cinema. It has turned on the projector to bring the tragic destinies of the people in Ukraine. It speaks of a country that stubbornly refuses to secede from the state.

The film "20 days in Mariupol" by journalist Chernov, who worked on the film together with photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and producer and journalist Vasilisa Stepanenko, begins with the moment when the tanks enter the city. That day, Europe woke up to war. "Someone told me that war begins with calm, not with noise", Chernov's story begins with these words. The footage shows the town looking abandoned. In many cases the residents were in basements.

When the attacks start, the filmmaker makes sure to document people's reactions. They are also in focus. He meets a terrified woman. He advises him to go home, as the invader would not hit civilians, as Russian President Vladimir Putin had publicly stated. But it was attacking houses and hospitals in every corner of the country.

"I don't want to die. Today I was woken up by the sounds of bombs", says a child in the documentary. He too has found shelter in the basements.

On the fourth day of the invasion, on February 27, Ukrainian police patrols were everywhere in the southeastern Ukrainian city on the border with Russia.

The director is on the battlefield. He also faces the fear and panic of people who influence attempts to stop him from filming. In the documentary are the dramas of the fight for life and death. There are also cries of fear. A kind of story about how hospitals become a place of healing and death. Also the target of the attacker. They are filled with people. The heart of many of them stops there and the bodies end up in basements of buildings. Slowly the latter collapse.

Experiences in front of numbers

With the documentary film "20 days in Mariupol" in more than an hour and a half, the director brings chronologically the progress of the war from day to day. There it also makes a kind of comparison of the way of reporting. While the screen brings the news from all over the world, where the figures look like numbers and houses like objects, the details in the documentary convey powerful emotions. The pain of losing the people of the house, the fear of the separation of the homeland from the state and the struggle for survival are included there. The documentary has already received prestigious awards.

On the seventh day of the invasion, Russian forces were attacking homes, people, even though officially the Russian leaders had declared that they would only face the Ukrainian army.

Heavy footage comes uncensored. Mstyslav Chernov recounts in the documentary that a child was playing near the school where he attended school when he was massacred by throwing a bomb. The pain of loss is one of the things that the filmmaker has focused on.

"This is painful to watch. That's how it should be," he says.

The release of footage from March 3 documents how day by day the conditions in the hospital become more difficult. People's limbs begin to be amputated due to severe injuries. The morgue has no more space.

In the narrative in the documentary about the ninth day of the war, the author begins to become one of the characters of the documentary. It seems he can't resist overlooking the personal aspect. It inadvertently appears to include personal information. He shows his concern for his family, especially his two daughters, whom he has not heard from for days as a result of the lack of internet and electricity.

Many of the scenes in the documentary go back to the years 1999, they can resemble the war in Kosovo. One radio line provides important information and is the only one that works.

Surrounded by warning alarms, the sound of bombs and bullets, screams, people become aggressive, afraid for their lives and worried about that of their relatives. The silence seems to scream in a few short sequences.

"The more people realize that they are surrounded, the more they despair", the author of the documentary confesses.

Mass grave

Attack with heavy artillery, aerial maneuvers with military helicopters and barrages of bullets surround them and become part of the daily life to which they cannot adapt. The maternity facility was attacked. A mass grave had to be opened. The images still come without filters. In grim scenes and dangerous terrain, Chernov films being close to the enemy, where the machinery of death is everywhere. Even on his head.

The Russian media's political propaganda is also rife. Russian television, with the same footage shot by Chernov from the maternity hospital, reported that Ukraine had hired actors to play the victims. And not only. A couple of minutes of the documentary dedicated to this part come as moments of absurdity and total indifference to the life of others.

Documenting the war

The documentary film has brought strong emotions to the public. The ambassador of the European Union in Kosovo, Tomáš Szunyog, said that the film is an important document of the war.

"It is a tragic film that shows the war, the victims of the war, the tragedies that have affected the civilian population. It also shows how brave people are. The film is also nominated for the 'Oscar' award, so there are two weeks to see what will happen. It is really serious the demonstration of war and what happens in similar circumstances to the civilian population, like in Mariupol. It's a sign of how important it is to face the Russian invasion," Szunyog told KOHEN.

According to him, over time, Kosovo has joined the countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. This, according to him, has made the country properly positioned for the event that will remain in history, as a supporter of Ukraine. Szunyog has said that he cannot talk about aggression without focusing on the crimes that were committed in violation of international law.

"It is unjustifiable aggression and a clear violation of international law. Unfortunately, the aggression continues and this tragic event seems out of place. We want to underline the importance of this war, not only for Ukraine, but for all of Europe, especially for the Western Balkans with an emphasis on Kosovo. I think it is very important that Kosovo has imposed sanctions on Russia, because this proves that it is on the right side of this event that will remain in history", he said.

The film "20 days in Mariupol" by the Ukrainian Mstyslav Chernov has gripped Europe and not only with its narrative.

On the 20th day of the war, the last to be illustrated with images, smoke in the sky creates a black cloud over the city. "The city is dying slowly, like a man", says the narrator, who is also one of the characters, with his work as a reporter from the heart of the war, he has made the world aware of the events in Ukraine in real time.

He is a war correspondent and filmmaker, photographer, photojournalist and novelist covering various events such as the civil war in Syria, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the siege of Mariupol.

In documenting the latter about Mariupol, he received the "Pulitzer Prize", while in his career as a journalist he was awarded the "Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech", "Knight International Journalism Awards", "Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Award", " Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award", "Free Media Awards", "CJFE International Press Freedom Award", "Royal Television Society Television Journalism Awards".

The recordings from Mariupol became the basis for the film "20 Days in Mariupol", which was included in the competition program of the "Sundance Film Festival" in 2023. There, the documentary film won the audience award in the category of documentaries in the official international competition.

These days, on February 18, the documentary film "20 days in Mariupol" won a prize from the British Academy. Received "BAFTA" for the best documentary. The director himself won the "Directors Guild of America Awards".

"The symbol of war and faith"

While accepting the award, Chernov said that the documentary is a symbol of war.

"This film is not about us. It is about Ukraine, about the people of Mariupol. The history of Mariupol is a symbol of everything that has happened. A symbol of war. A symbol of faith. Thank you for empowering our voice," the director said. , screenwriter and producer of the film "20 days in Mariupol"

It has been described as "an essential film and a relentlessly important documentary" by The New York Times and a "brave masterpiece" by The Guardian.

“It is an incredible honor that the British Academy of Film and Television Arts has recognized '20 Days in Mariupol', a film that has been crucial in educating global audiences about the war in Ukraine. We are very proud of the AP team for bringing this documentary to the world. The impact of journalism cannot be underestimated," said Daisy Veerasingham, president of the Associated Press.

The feature-length documentary film is also a contender for the "Oscar" award. It is nominated in the best documentary category. The award ceremony will take place on the night of March 10.

The film premiered in Kosovo at the last edition of the international documentary and short film festival "DokuFest" in Prizren. The programmer of films at this festival, director Samir Karahoda, has assessed the film as powerful and exciting.

"Scary movie"

"For the first time I saw '20 days in Mariupol' in the cinema 'Lumbardhi' at the last 'DokuFest'. It is an extremely powerful and haunting film. Even though it was the second time I watched it, the feeling was the same, without comments and asking myself hundreds of questions about 'why the world needs such things'", said Karahoda, considering that the documentary film has impact to be used as evidence of the crime committed against the civilian population in Ukraine.

"It is a film that will have an impact in the future, which will certainly be used in the War Crimes Court against the Russian state for the killing and bombing of civilians. This film best proves the importance of journalists in war zones and the power of images for the world to see the truth that Russia has always tried to hide", said director Samir Karahoda.

In memory of the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine, a few days ago the documentary film "20 days in Mariupol" was also shown in the National Library of Kosovo.