“20 Days in Mariupol”, by Mstyslav Chernov, or the story of annihilation


We owe the rare images of the siege of Mariupol to them. Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka, Ukrainian journalists at the Associated Press (AP), are the only representatives of the international press to remain in this southern Ukrainian city after the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 2022. For twenty days, they documented the ordeal of its inhabitants, cut off from the world, deprived of telephone networks, electricity, water, heating, food, and subjected to incessant bombardments by Russian troops.

Their exceptional testimony is released today in the form of a documentary, 20 days in Mariupol , nominated for the Oscars, awarded the Bafta and broadcast since Wednesday February 21 on the France.tv website, then Sunday February 25 at 10:15 p.m. on France 5. The film, directed by Mstyslav Chernov, shows how Vladimir Putin’s Russia annihilated the city – both a strategic port and a symbolic target – and silenced the 450,000 people who lived there. lived. A document for history.

On the first day of the invasion, Mariupol still looked like an ordinary city. In the street, Ukrainian flags flutter in the wind. “Wars do not start with explosions, but with silence,” explains the director in voiceover. He comes across an old lady in tears, distraught, who doesn’t know where to hide. “Go back and stay at home, they don’t shoot civilians,” he reassures her. A few days later, he meets her again in a crowded shelter after the bombing of her neighborhood. “I was wrong ,” the voice-over continues. I apologize to him. » Russian troops have never stopped targeting civilians.

Hospital daily

Mstyslav Chernov follows the daily life of the hospital, soon overwhelmed by victims. The doctors try to revive Evangelina, 4 years old, seriously injured in a missile attack, and who they are unable to save. The journalist films everything, the hands trembling with fear, the pain of the parents, the jostling stretchers, the caregivers who burst into tears, jump at the sound of the attacks and run through the corridors to try to save an injured teenager, the gesture derisory protection of a nurse, a baby in arms, the shortage of painkillers, the corpses which accumulate in the basement then overflow outside the building, the mass grave… “What crime have the residents committed of this city ? I don’t understand what’s happening,” moaned a mother.

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