“We want to reaffirm our commitment to U.N. values, and that’s why we’ve chosen to show this very important documentary.”
More than a hundred ambassadors, journalists and representatives of a broad spectrum of society watched a U.N. screening Monday evening of the award-winning documentary 20 Days in Mariupol, which follows a trio of Associated Press journalists during Russia’s relentless siege of the Ukrainian port city in the early days of the war.
UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward, who co-hosted the screening, said the film is important because “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens what the U.N. stands for: an international order where the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries is fundamental.”
“We want to reaffirm our commitment to U.N. values, and that’s why we’ve chosen to show this very important documentary,” she said in welcoming the the audience at U.N. headquarters in New York.
The screening comes at the start of the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly and a week before world leaders arrive for their annual meeting, where the more than 18-month war in Ukraine is expected to be in the spotlight - especially with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy scheduled to speak in person for the first time.
The US ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the other co-host, said 20 Days in Mariupol documents “the horrors of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war of aggression.”
“We’re here tonight to bear witness, to bear witness to these horrors and to reaffirm our commitment to justice and peace,” she said. “We must continue to hold Russia to account for its atrocities. We must continue to support the Ukrainian people in their time of need.”
The documentary is culled from 30 hours of footage AP journalist Mstyslav Chernov and his colleagues shot in Mariupol following Russia’s 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and its siege of the city. It documents fighting in the streets, the crushing strain on Mariupol’s residents and medical teams, and attacks that killed pregnant women, children and others.
It is Mstyslav Chernov's first feature length film and an essential piece of journalism and documentary filmmaking.
The film premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival in the US, where it won the Audience Award in World Cinema Documentary category. It has since done the rounds in several major film festivals, like Denmark’s CPH DOX, Canada’s Hot Docs Festival and Ukraine’s Docudays UA International Documentary Human Rights Film Festival – where it took the main award.
The AP’s reporting from Mariupol drew the Kremlin’s ire, with its U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia falsely claiming during a Security Council meeting in the siege’s early days that photos showing the aftermath of a missile strike on a maternity hospital were staged.
The siege, which ended on 20 May 2022, with the surrender of a small group of outgunned and outmanned Ukrainian fighters at the Azovstal steel plant, left the city in ruins and an estimated 25,000 people dead.
The Ukrainian Oscar Committee will consider the candidacy of 20 Days in Mariupol to nominate a contender from Ukraine for the 96th Academy Awards in the Best International Feature Film category.