July 12th, 2024

’20 Days in Mariupol’ wins best documentary Oscar, a first for AP and PBS’ ‘Frontline’

By By Lindsey Bahr And Christopher Weber, The Associated Press on March 10, 2024.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Mstyslav Chernov’s “20 Days in Mariupol,” a harrowing first-person account of the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, won the best documentary Oscar on Sunday night.

A joint production of The Associated Press and PBS’ “Frontline,” statuettes were awarded to Chernov, producer and editor Michelle Mizner and producer Raney Aronson-Rath. The Oscar – and nomination – was a first for both Chernov, an AP video journalist, and the 178-year-old news organization. This was the third nomination and first win for “Frontline.”

Chernov, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and producer Vasilisa Stepanenko arrived an hour before Russia began bombing the port city. 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.

On the ground, Chernov encounters quite a few different reactions to the team’s presence on the ground. Some thanked the journalists for doing their jobs. Some called them prostitutes. Some doctors urged them to film graphic scenes of injured and dead children to show the world what had been done.

Only about 40 minutes of footage made it out to the world in real time because of poor connections, but when Chernov and his colleagues were finally able to leave, he decided he needed to do something with the 30-some hours they had on tape. Chernov, who was born in Ukraine, narrated the documentary as well.

The work of Chernov, Maloletka, Stepanenko and Lori Hinnant won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for public service and featured prominently that same year in a Pulitzer for breaking news photography.

“20 Days in Mariupol” debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won an audience award. It went on to claim best documentary from the Directors Guild and BAFTA and was considered a favorite for the Academy Award going into the night. It won the prize over a strong slate of documentary features, including “Four Daughters,””The Eternal Memory,” “Bobi Wine: The People’s President” and “To Kill a Tiger.” Last year, “Navalny,” about the Russian opposition leader who died just last month, won best documentary.

And while the awards run for “Mariupol” has come to a close, each new prize and platform has provided a stark reminder that, more than two years, later the war is still ongoing. On the same day Chernov learned he was nominated for an Oscar, he learned that his hometown of Kharkiv had just been subject to a deadly bombing by Russian forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in late February that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in action since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

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For more on the 2024 Oscars, visit https://apnews.com/hub/academy-awards. For more AP coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war, visit https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine.

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