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Over 100 VIPs attend UN screening of documentary on Russia’s siege of Ukrainian city of Mariupol

by Michael Nguyen
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UN Screening

More than a hundred distinguished attendees, including ambassadors, journalists, and representatives from various sectors of society, gathered at the United Nations on Monday evening for a special screening of the critically acclaimed documentary titled “20 Days in Mariupol.” This documentary chronicles the harrowing experiences of a team of journalists from Big Big News during the relentless siege of the Ukrainian port city by Russia in the early days of the conflict.

The co-host of the event, U.K. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, emphasized the documentary’s significance in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stating that it poses a threat to the fundamental principles upheld by the United Nations—an international order where the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations are sacrosanct. She expressed the intention to reaffirm their commitment to U.N. values through the screening.

This screening coincides with the commencement of the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly and serves as a prelude to the annual gathering of world leaders. The ongoing 18-month war in Ukraine is expected to take center stage during these deliberations, particularly with the presence of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, scheduled to address the assembly in person for the first time.

The documentary, produced jointly by the Associated Press (AP) and the PBS series “Frontline,” draws from a substantial 30-hour footage archive captured by AP journalist Mstyslav Chernov and his colleagues on the ground in Mariupol following Russia’s invasion on February 24, 2022. It vividly portrays the street battles, the immense hardships faced by Mariupol’s residents and medical personnel, and the devastating attacks that claimed the lives of pregnant women, children, and numerous others. The siege, which ultimately ended on May 20, 2022, with the surrender of a beleaguered group of Ukrainian defenders at the Azovstal steel plant, left the city in ruins and an estimated casualty count of 25,000 people, although the actual toll is believed to be higher.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and the co-host of the event, characterized “20 Days in Mariupol” as a testament to the horrors of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive war. She emphasized the importance of bearing witness to these atrocities and maintaining a commitment to justice and peace, all while holding Russia accountable for its actions and continuing to support the Ukrainian people in their time of need.

The AP’s reporting from Mariupol drew the ire of the Kremlin, with Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia falsely claiming during a Security Council meeting that photos depicting the aftermath of a missile strike on a maternity hospital were staged.

Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, who attended the screening, expressed his belief that the documentary’s impact is so profound and crucial that it will continue to be shown even half a century from now.

Julie Pace, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor at AP, underlined the documentary’s role as a powerful example of eyewitness journalism. She stressed that without such reporting, the world would remain unaware of the atrocities that transpired. The screening of “20 Days in Mariupol” at the United Nations during the General Assembly’s commencement underscores the importance of fact-based journalism on a global scale and the imperative to safeguard the freedom of the press to cover the world’s most critical stories, ensuring that the public has access to this type of fact-based reporting.

The documentary has received widespread recognition, including the Sundance Global Audience Award for Best Documentary and other accolades. Mstyslav Chernov, the AP journalist, was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, alongside photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, producer Vasilisa Stepanenko, and Paris-based correspondent Lori Hinnant, for their courageous reporting on Mariupol.

Chernov, speaking via video from Ukraine while wearing a helmet, expressed his feelings of powerlessness as a journalist to change events on the ground. However, he affirmed his commitment to ensuring that as many people as possible bear witness to the events in Mariupol, with the hope that the world will not forget. He noted that what transpired in Mariupol continues in other Ukrainian cities, emphasizing the urgency of ending the ongoing war.

Raney Aronson-Rath, the editor-in-chief and executive producer of “Frontline,” conveyed the deep significance of screening the documentary at the United Nations. She emphasized their ongoing efforts to share the film worldwide, providing audiences with the opportunity to bear witness to the immense suffering endured by the Ukrainian people.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ukraine War Documentary

What is the documentary “20 Days in Mariupol” about?

“20 Days in Mariupol” is a documentary that chronicles the experiences of journalists during Russia’s siege of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol in the early days of the war. It captures the harrowing realities faced by the city’s residents, the medical teams, and the devastating impact of the conflict.

Who attended the UN screening of this documentary?

The UN screening of “20 Days in Mariupol” was attended by more than a hundred individuals, including ambassadors, journalists, and representatives from various sectors of society. Notable figures like U.K. Ambassador Barbara Woodward and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield co-hosted the event.

Why is this documentary considered important?

This documentary is deemed significant because it sheds light on the brutal consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding international values and holding those responsible for atrocities accountable.

What were some key moments captured in the documentary?

The documentary captures intense street battles, the immense strain on Mariupol’s residents and medical personnel, and tragic attacks that claimed the lives of innocent civilians, including pregnant women and children. It provides a comprehensive view of the siege’s devastating impact.

What recognition has the documentary received?

“20 Days in Mariupol” has received critical acclaim, including the Sundance Global Audience Award for Best Documentary. AP journalist Mstyslav Chernov and his colleagues were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for their courageous reporting on Mariupol.

Why did the AP’s reporting from Mariupol draw criticism from the Kremlin?

The Kremlin expressed displeasure with the AP’s reporting from Mariupol, with Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia falsely claiming that certain photos depicting the aftermath of an attack on a maternity hospital were staged.

What message did the co-hosts and participants at the screening convey?

The co-hosts and attendees at the screening emphasized the importance of bearing witness to the horrors depicted in the documentary. They underscored the need to hold Russia accountable for its actions and to support the Ukrainian people during these challenging times.

How can the public access this documentary?

The documentary “20 Days in Mariupol” is being shared worldwide to allow audiences to witness the suffering endured by the Ukrainian people. It can be accessed through various platforms and screenings.

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