25.01.2023 - 20:35 / deadline.com
It is difficult to imagine the scale of atrocities committed by Russia in Ukraine without the benefit of video evidence. Fortunately, some documentary filmmakers are bringing those images to the world so that the brutal reality of the unprovoked assault cannot be ignored.
Mstyslav Chernov’s 20 Days in Mariupol, premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, documents the targeting of civilians in just one Ukrainian city at the beginning of the war last year – the strategic port of Mariupol. He and a small team – field producer Vasilisa Stepanenko and photographer Evgeniy Maloletka — got to Mariupol just before dawn on February 24, 2022.
“We arrived one hour before the invasion started, before the bombs started to fall, and the famous speech of Vladimir Putin announcing the invasion,” Chernov tells Deadline. “And we stayed there until 15th of March documenting everything we could.”
What they documented were horrors to deeply shock the conscience. Russian missiles striking civilian targets, tanks branded with the Russian “Z” firing on apartment buildings and homes. Defenseless people sheltering wherever they could.
“I woke up from bombing today,” a little girl tells Chernov, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I don’t want to die.”
But so many children, elderly people, civilians of every age do perish in the hideous attack. Four-year-old Evangelina dies in a hospital from shelling injuries. “Film how these motherf*****s are killing civilians!” an outraged doctor exclaims.
Ilya, a 16-year-old boy, shares the same tragic fate as Evangelina. His legs are blown off by a bomb and doctors cannot save him. His distraught father kisses his son’s forehead as Ilya lies motionless on a gurney. The death toll is overwhelming.