20 Days in Mariupol: how the footage was taken out of the occupied city

20 Days in Mariupol: how the footage was taken out of the occupied city

When I found out that 20 Days in Mariupol had won an Oscar, I first thought of one of its characters, police officer Volodymyr. About his endless faith that this movie can change something.

At great risk to his own life and the lives of his family, Volodymyr helped Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka to take the footage out of occupied Mariupol.

They all drove together in one car, damaged by shelling, through 15 (!) enemy checkpoints (100 km of Russian-occupied territory), and under the car seats were hidden cameras and hard drives with materials for which they could all be shot. I can't even imagine how they felt.

I would like to thank the authors of the film and its characters for their courage. This film is exactly the case when cinema is not only an artistic expression, but also a very powerful weapon.

During his speech, Mstyslav said: "I wish I had never made this movie." Yes, we would all like to have no reason to make it.

But history does not know the subjunctive mood, and since the Russians committed all these terrible crimes in Ukraine and Mariupol in particular, it is a great fortune that this unique document exists.

When I write about "luck," I think again about the price that some journalists and filmmakers pay when they try their best to capture certain events. I think about Mantas Kvedaravičius, a Lithuanian filmmaker who was also in Mariupol in March 2022, shooting his footage, but was captured by the Russians and shot dead.

I think about all the other people with cameras and film cameras in this minefield, where every step can be the last. Many of them are no longer among the living.

And yes, the Oscars and other awards are important in our time, when attention to any topic can be easily switched to other topics. There is no newsworthy event and the world has moved on.

But I really hope that the footage from 20 Days in Mariupol will stay in the minds of the different people who watched it for a long time.

And I don't know how many viewers were at the Oscars last night, but last year, they say, there were 19 million.

Mstyslav made a very precise speech  on behalf of the team, which I hope was heard.

Iryna Tsilyk

Ukraine Front Line

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