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'20 Days in Mariupol' review: Harrowing doctor chronicles Russia's siege of Ukrainian port city

Just like 20 Days in Mariupol Miserable Convincingly proving that as long as there has been war, there will have been war documentaries.

The effort of first-time filmmaker Mstyslav Chernov is a particularly immersive example of the genre, documenting the weeks-long assault by Russian troops on the titular Ukrainian city. besieged. Correspondent Chernov of the Associated Press and his colleague, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, traveled to the port city in late February , convinced that its strategic location would make it a prime target. They were right, as Russian bombs began hitting the city hours later. The resulting footage makes up this film, co-produced by The Associated Press and PBS’s Frontlines and shown worldwide at the Sundance Film Festival . Premiere of the documentary The Key .

Mariupo Er’s day

bottom line Exhausting but necessary viewing.

Venue : Sundance Film Festival (World Film Documentary Competition)
director: Mstyslav Chernov 1 hour 35 minutes

Filmmakers captured the shock and pain of residents when they suddenly found themselves bombed. Immediately afterwards, not all were happy to see the reporters, and some showed hostility to their presence. “I understand their anger,” Chernoff commented in his account. “Their country is under attack. So is our country. We have to tell its story.”

Telling the story of what they did at considerable personal risk. We see footage of a terrified little girl whimpering “I don’t want to die, I want it to end soon”; a father mourning the loss of his teenage son while playing football; a lack of antibiotics and pain relief medicines as doctors desperately try to treat the wounded; the body of a small baby wrapped in sheets; burials in mass graves; people resorting to looting out of desperation and sometimes greed. As one doctor remarked, war tends to bring out the best and the worst in people.

Four men were seen carrying a bleeding pregnant woman on a stretcher out of a bombed maternity hospital (we later learned she and her unborn baby were dead). Infuriatingly, Russian leaders and the media insist that this scene, and all others, are nothing more than orchestrated propaganda to get the world to support Ukraine’s cause. As Chernov and others in the film point out, this makes their reporting all the more important in countering Russian disinformation.

On one occasion, Chernov and his colleagues were rescued by Ukrainian soldiers from a hospital where they were trapped by snipers. Soldiers were sent to fetch journalists to prevent footage of them being captured by Russian troops and tortured for false confessions being faked. We see soldiers and reporters marching through the streets under heavy gunfire, and the harrowing footage plays out like a scene from a Michael Bay movie.

Aside from Jordan Dykstra’s creepy electronica score, the raw footage was largely untouched and could easily have been turned into a horror film (of course, Days in Mariupol a bit). This immediacy only enhances the documentary’s inherent power, even if it occasionally gives it the feel of an extended news segment. Beyond the human tragedy on display, what is most vivid is the critical importance of war correspondents and the courage and ingenuity they must possess in order to work in such life-threatening conditions.

Chernov stayed in Mariupol for less than three weeks. As the text on the screen tells us, the city fell to the Russians after 35 days. Some25,000 Some people are estimated to have been killed, although the number is likely to be much higher. And since the war is far from over, there may be more documentaries like this one to come.

Full credits

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (World Film Documentary Contest)
Distributor: PBS Distribution Director of Photography: Mstyslav Chernov Still Photographer : Evgeniy Maloletka Producers: Mstyslav Chernov, Michelle Mizner, Raney Aronson – Rath, Derl McCrudden

Editor: Michelle Mizner Composer: Jordan Dykstra

1 hour20 minute 2022 THR Newsletter

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