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An Oscar for eyewitness journalism

With the spotlight on the movie Oppenheimer’s and all the other Oscars, one less hyped award should also be noted and celebrated: “20 Days in Mariupol” that got an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature Film. It is a first-person report on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through the perspective of Ukrainian filmmaker and news agency AP video journalist Mstyslav Chernov. 

AP’s AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Julie Pace described awarding the film as a testament to the importance of eyewitness journalism.

Accepting AP and PBS Frontline’s first Oscar, Chernov said: “This is the first Oscar in Ukrainian history, and I’m honored but probably I will be the first director on this stage to say I wish I never made this film.” 

“We can make sure that the history record is set straight, that the truth prevails, and that the people of Mariupol and those who’ve given their lives will never be forgotten — because cinema forms memory and memory forms history.”

Chernov and his AP colleagues Evgeniy Maloletka and Vasilisa Stepanenko reported from Mariupol amid Russia’s siege. Together, the journalists also won the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and a number of other awards for their reporting.

“As the war in Ukraine enters its third year, it’s clear that “20 Days in Mariupol” was just the first chapter of the tragedy and terror that continues today — and now more than ever, there is a need for this kind of boots-on-the-ground reporting to serve as a necessary and factual record of history. I hope that this Oscar continues to focus attention on the people of Ukraine and the importance of journalism,” said Frontline Editor-in-Chief Raney Aronson-Rath.

“20 Days in Mariupol” made its world premiere in January 2023 at the Sundance Film Festival and was the recipient of the festival’s World Cinema Documentary Competition Audience Award.

 “20 Days in Mariupol” had its U.S. broadcast premiere on PBS stations in November 2023 and a trailer is available at Frontline’s YouTube channel.

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