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22 Sep. 2023

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20 Days in Mariupol: why you should watch the film that Ukraine has nominated for an Oscar?

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20 Days in Mariupol: why you should watch the film that Ukraine has nominated for an Oscar?

The Ukrainian film "20 Days in Mariupol" has been selected to represent Ukraine at the Oscars in 2014. The documentary tells the story of the events that took place in Mariupol during the siege. Find out 5 reasons why you should watch this film and see the events on the front line witnessed by the film's team

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"20 Days in Mariupol" has already received recognition, winning the prestigious Audience Award at the Sundance Independent Film Festival. The film has also received positive feedback from audiences and critics in Ukrainian cinemas, where it has been screening since 31 August. 


While the selection of the film as a national candidate is an important step, the decisive moment will be the selection by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This documentary should draw the world's attention to the important events taking place in Ukraine. We tell interesting facts that will definitely make you watch the film.


The uniqueness of real footage


The unique documentary footage shot by photographer Yevhen Malolhetka and journalist Mstislav Chernov, together with producer Vasilisa Stepanenko in Mariupol, will go down in history as proof of the extraordinary courage and sacrifice of professionals who sought to lift the veil and show the world the true picture of russian aggression in Ukraine. 


Travelling to the city where russian troops began to destroy everything in their path, they were the only international journalists who had the opportunity to record the horrific consequences of the war.


These brave people had one goal: to reveal the truth about what was happening in Mariupol and break the information blockade imposed by the russian occupiers. They documented the humanitarian catastrophe that occurred due to the siege of the city, war crimes, mass graves of civilian victims, and the unspeakable work of doctors who tried to save all residents, from babies to teenagers. 


The Pulitzer Prize the film's team received in May 2023 recognised their bravery and professionalism in showing the horrific reality of the war in Ukraine. 


A confessional film based on personal experience


Mstislav Chernov is a name that has become a symbol of unbreakable courage and extraordinary journalistic work during the war in Ukraine. Since 2014, he has been actively visiting the hotspots of the conflict, recording events on the frontline. He became a witness and narrator of the events of the Revolution of Dignity, where he was wounded. 


The Ukrainian city of Mariupol became the absolute worst point in the life of Mstyslav and his team. He was among the residents who fought for survival under fire and were constantly in search of the necessary resources. 


Chernov's documentary allows Ukrainians to feel all the traumas of the war more deeply and understand what they are fighting for. 




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Mariupol residents approved


Ukraine has repeatedly tried to make sense of the events surrounding russia's full-scale invasion of the east of the country. One way to do this is through cinema and feature films. 


The premiere of the film Yurik, which tells the story of a boy from Mariupol who embarked on a dangerous journey to visit his relatives in Estonia, aired on Independence Day and could not escape the various assessments and reactions.

One of the main complaints of Mariupol residents to the film was its historical inconsistency. The film depicted events that did not actually take place in the city, and also presented an OSCE humanitarian evacuation that did not take place. This historical inaccuracy significantly affected the perception of the film by local residents.


This situation served as an example of the importance of being responsible when telling stories related to real events and conflicts. The events in Ukraine remain very sensitive for many citizens, and cinema can play an important role in creating a deeper understanding of these events.


The highest-grossing documentary


Since its release, the film has collected over UAH 1,149,585 in box office receipts and attracted 8,873 viewers. This was a record attendance for a Ukrainian documentary and a confirmation of the strong interest in stories related to the difficult realities of contemporary Ukraine.


The film also received positive feedback from film critics. It received a 100% rating on the popular Rotten Tomatoes website and the Certified Fresh award. The rating on the IMDb platform was 8.5, and Metacritic gave the film 83 points with a "worth watching" mark. 


The director Iryna Tsilyk, who is known for her sensitive work on the film, urges viewers to see the film for themselves, but warns that it will be difficult to watch. 


"20 Days in Mariupol" continues to win the hearts of viewers and to foster discussion of important topics related to the events in eastern Ukraine.


Ukrainian cinema at the Oscars: the path to the award


Since 1997, Ukraine has been actively competing for the most prestigious film award - the Oscar. Over the years, Ukraine has had to face difficulties when its candidates were not shortlisted, sometimes even disqualified, as happened with the film Driving for Vera in 2004.


In recent years, however, Ukrainian cinema has gained widespread international recognition for its documentaries. The film Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Struggle for Freedom was shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2016, presenting the story of the Revolution of Dignity to the world. 


The most recent film, House of Splinters, which tells the story of children from the Lysychansk Centre for Social and Psychological Assistance in Donbas, also impressed the world audience with its powerhouse story.


This year, Ukraine chose its representative at the Oscars among five films, including 20 Days in Mariupol. Unexpectedly for some, the Ukrainian delegation decided to nominate a documentary rather than a feature film. 


However, this does not contradict the rules of the award, as Ukraine can nominate a film in any category, from fiction to documentary. Thus, 20 Days in Mariupol has a chance to compete for the first Oscar for Ukraine.



Photo: Reuters




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