May 19, 2024

Mstyslav Chernov’s 20 Days in Mariupol won best documentary for journalist’s first-person account of Russian invasion.

Ukrainian officials have hailed the country’s first Oscar-winning film for “showing the truth about Russia’s crimes”.

Mstyslav Chernov’s 20 Days in Mariupol won best documentary at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday for its harrowing first-person account of the early days of Russia’s invasion in 2022. The Associated Press (AP) journalist’s film focuses on the attack on the southern city, which began in February two years ago.

“This is the first Oscar in Ukrainian history, and I’m honoured,” an emotional Chernov said as he accepted the award in Los Angeles. “Probably I will be the first director on this stage to say I wish I’d never made this film. I wish to be able to exchange this to Russia never attacking Ukraine.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was reportedly blocked from appearing at the ceremony by organisers, said in a post on his Telegram channel on Monday that the movie “shows the truth about Russian terrorism”.

Other officials joined in praising the film, applauding it for exposing the brutal devastation of the war and the message Chernov sent to the world from one of the world’s biggest stages.

“The first Oscar in [Ukrainian] history. And how important it is now,” Andriy Yermak, head of the Presidential Office, said on Telegram. “The world has seen the truth about Russia’s crimes. Justice always prevails.”

Chernov, alongside AP colleagues Evgeniy Maloletka and Vasilisa Stepanenko, arrived an hour before Russia began bombing the port city of Mariupol.

Two weeks later, they were the last journalists working for an international outlet in the city, sending crucial dispatches to the outside world showing civilian casualties of all ages, the digging of mass graves, the bombing of a maternity hospital and the sheer extent of the devastation.

Statuettes were awarded to Chernov, producer and editor Michelle Mizner and producer Raney Aronson-Rath for a film that was a joint production of AP and the show Frontline on the US television network PBS. The Oscar – and nomination – was a first for both Chernov, an AP video journalist, and the 178-year-old news organisation.

Yermak thanked the team who made the film “for reminding the whole world that the war continues and evil still lives”.

Ukraine’s human rights chief, Dmytro Lubinets, praised the documentary for showing “the truth to the whole world”.

“This awards ceremony is an opportunity to address millions of people. This is what the film director did by mentioning the occupation, prisoners of war, killing of Ukrainians by Russia, and illegal abduction of civilians,” he wrote on Telegram.

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