20 Days in Mariupol: An Academy Award-Winning Documentary

As Russia began the attack on Mariupol, a group of Associated Press journalists found themselves trapped in the besieged city.

20 Days in Mariupol is a documentary that follows a journalist named Mstyslav Chernov alongside his crew made up of photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and field producer Vasilaisa Stepanenko. Together, they witness the first bombings as Russia begins its invasion, and for 20 straight days, they find themselves behind enemy lines. As the only international journalists remaining in the city, their footage was among the very few that were able to tell the story of what was going on behind enemy lines. From dying children to mass graves, and even the bombing of a maternity hospital.

The film starts with the crew witnessing some of the very first bombings within the city. Directly after, they encounter a civilian asking what she should do. So the journalists encourage her to go home and take cover in the basement. They explain that the invading soldiers won't fire directly upon civilians. Unfortunately, that ends up being very wrong. Subsequent attacks later directly targeted civilian areas with no nearby troops, leading those who survived to take refuge in makeshift shelters within the city. The journalist crew later comes back in contact with the lady they advised to take shelter at home at a nearby shelter where they could, at least, apologize.

Later in the film, they witness Russian tanks marked with the letter "Z," which is the Russian sign for war. They watch, trapped in a hospital, as the Russian tanks fire directly at residential buildings around them. As the Russian forces get closer and closer, they need to escape. Mainly for their lives, but also so that they can upload their footage to share with the world. They are finally able to abandon the hospital, leaving behind the doctors and victims who have sheltered them. And mere hours after they escaped, Russian forces took over the hospital.

On their last days of being trapped, they try to escape with a Red Cross convoy but arrive at their location just after it's left. With no way to sneak, they get a ride in a civilian car. With gear and hard drives hidden under the seat, they make their way to the humanitarian corridor. Thankfully, on this dangerous journey, they catch up to the Red Cross convoy and are able to smuggle out the footage that can tell this important story.

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Jason Vinson is a wedding and portrait photographer for Vinson Images based out of Bentonville, Arkansas. Ranked one of the Top 100 Wedding photographers in the World, he has a passion for educating and sharing his craft.

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1 Comment

Its a very hard to watch but moving film. As an Estonian living next to Russia, I almost find it a necessary preconditioner. Not too much gore, just a small media team trapped in a city where the frontline keeps sneaking closer and closer, causing civilian casualities. Those hurt emotionally really hard. And the struggle to report accurately and fend off accusations in a media war.