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"Once you see this movie, you live with it forever." Film experts on the phenomenon of 20 Days in Mariupol and the hate surrounding Ukrainians at the Oscars

Chernov with his co-stars in the movie

20 Days in Mariupol, a documentary about the first days of the siege of the Ukrainian city by Russian invaders, won an Oscar. This is the first award of this level for our country.

Ukrainian producers, actors, and film experts told OBOZ.UA why this film will play an important role not only for the film industry. They also responded to haters who saw a betrayal here as well.

''Once you see this movie, you live with it forever.'' Film experts on the phenomenon of 20 Days in Mariupol and the hate surrounding Ukrainians at the Oscars

Anna Palenchuk is one of the producers of the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning Indian blockbuster RRR. Palenchuk's company also co-produced the documentary From Where to Where by Polish director Maciek Hamela about the evacuation of Ukrainian refugees. The film also made it to the Oscar campaign – it was shortlisted for the Oscars 2024.

"Today, I felt so happy, as if I had won an Oscar myself," says Anna Palenchuk about her impressions of the victory of 20 Days in Mariupol, "This is not just an achievement, it is a great historical event! Ukraine has appeared on the Oscar map. This victory is a huge sign for Ukrainian film producers that their stories can be interesting in the world. After this victory, 20 Days in Mariupol is a real possibility."

"I met Mstyslav Chernov last year in Toronto at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival. At that time, the film was only gaining momentum. Chernov is not a filmmaker who wanted to realize a creative idea or fulfill a directorial ambition. Unlike thousands of directors before him, he is a person who made the film by necessity. He had a huge mission – not just to inform about the hell that the Russians had created in Mariupol, but to record it all for posterity. You know, the film crew could have really died there, they worked in terrible conditions. This is just a huge feat of filmmaking."

"Once you see this movie, you live with it forever," Anna continues, "When I watched it, I can honestly say that my life was divided into before and after. I will forever have to live with the realization of the horror that was in front of the cameras of Mstyslav Chernov and his colleagues. Mstyslav said incredibly powerful words at the ceremony. He was probably the first filmmaker to say on the Oscar stage that he would never want to make this movie. I would also never want to produce the movie From Where to Where, because it is also about suffering during the war."

''Once you see this movie, you live with it forever.'' Film experts on the phenomenon of 20 Days in Mariupol and the hate surrounding Ukrainians at the Oscars

Yevhen Nyshchuk is a People's Artist of Ukraine, leading actor of the Ivan Franko Theater, twice Minister of Culture, and Chairman of the Committee for the Taras Shevchenko National Prize of Ukraine.

"I took the news of our film's victory with real tears in my eyes," says Yevhen Nyshchuk, "I had premonitions. And you know that this ceremony was preceded by the awarding of the Shevchenko Prize to the project. Chernov's team had already met the award, which is known all over the world, as winners of the main prize in the field of culture in Ukraine. "At the award ceremony in Kyiv, I said that it is through the language of such art that we will show the world the crimes of racism and our strength of spirit. This victory shows that we are a great cinematic country. I hope that in some time we will receive an Oscar for feature films as well. We are working hard to revive our cinema. This is a language that the whole world understands, it quickly penetrates every heart. Yes, this victory came to us through the prism of great pain. The movie is about a great sacrificial and heroic moment in our history. But it is true, and it contains hope, steadfastness, and indomitability. And the desire to win. We will see the film crew during the presentation of the Shevchenko Award. We still have it with us, because at the time of the award ceremony in Kyiv, Chernov and his colleagues were already in the United States, waiting for the Oscar ceremony.

''Once you see this movie, you live with it forever.'' Film experts on the phenomenon of 20 Days in Mariupol and the hate surrounding Ukrainians at the Oscars

Liudmyla Gordeladze, film expert, and former director of the iconic Zhovten Cinema in Kyiv.

"First of all, I have to say that this year's award was given to the best," says Gordeladze. "The decisions of the film academics fully correspond to the quality of the winning films. And this is not only because Ukraine won with the film 20 Days in Mariupol. Both Oppenheimer and The Zone of Interest are at the top of the creative Olympus. I believe that these three films show the consequences of universal evil. The scientist Oppenheimer was at the origin of nuclear weapons, which is the greatest threat to humanity. The Zone of Interest tells about very terrible pages of the Second World War. This is a movie about the family of the Auschwitz commandant. Our film is about the personification of evil today. Nowadays, we sometimes hear opinions in the West and on our home front that everyone is tired of the war. But it is not over! The Pope has raised the question: should we submit to evil or fight? Ukrainians are in favor of fighting. Although we realize that there are many difficult times ahead. But there is no other way out than to resist aggression. What Chernov and his team have done is a feat. They did not leave the city but continued their work."

"It's interesting that we don't have a large-scale documentary film school, but we already have an Oscar. We have famous filmmakers, but no institution would produce masters recognized in the world. Some works have been well-received in the world, including Serhii Bukovskyi's documentary Spell Your Name, about the Holocaust. The Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival is very powerful. Among the latter, Iryna Tsilyk's film The Earth is Blue as an Orange won many prizes in the world. The film is not literally about war, but about how people survive in a frontline town."

''Once you see this movie, you live with it forever.'' Film experts on the phenomenon of 20 Days in Mariupol and the hate surrounding Ukrainians at the Oscars

Darya Bassel is a producer (the film Butterfly Vision, which represented Ukraine in the competition program of the Cannes Film Festival), co-producer of the documentary House of Splinters, which was nominated for the European Film Awards in 2022 and for the Oscar in 2023 in the category of Best Documentary Feature), head of the industry platform of the international human rights documentary film festival Docudays UA.

"I believe that Ukraine has a powerful school of documentary filmmaking," says Darya Bassel, "We have always had many masters of this genre. There were such great directors as Felix Sobolev, one of the founders and leader of the Kyiv School of Scientific Film. There was Kyivnaukfilm back in Soviet times, where a lot of interesting documentaries were made. There was such a wonderful director as Yevhen Zahadanskyi. And now his son, Andrii Zahadanskyi, is making films. Serhii Bukovskyi, who also started his career in Soviet times. I agree that our documentary industry is not big, but it is very powerful. If you look at the programs of the major documentary film festivals over the past few years, you'll see that each one has a Ukrainian film.

The film 20 Days in Mariupol is, of course, a unique event, both in Ukrainian and world cinema. Unique at least because of the courage of the authors. This film, in fact, advocates for Ukraine, and conveys the truth about Russia's war against us. The documentary refutes a lot of fakes spread by Russia. I have read many texts by foreign journalists and critics who write that thanks to this film they felt what it is like to go through a war. And I think this is the greatest value of the movie. It allows foreign viewers who are very far from Ukraine to emotionally plunge into very painful states. And when a person "connects" to all this, they can no longer ignore the war. And I hope they will become our allies. All the viewers who watch this movie will, in fact, also be our lawyers. I think that this film will play a very important role in politics as well because now we are all advocating for more weapons for Ukraine. The influence of this movie will be felt here as well."

''Once you see this movie, you live with it forever.'' Film experts on the phenomenon of 20 Days in Mariupol and the hate surrounding Ukrainians at the Oscars

Rymma Ziubina is a Ukrainian theater and film actress, TV presenter, and public figure. She is a winner of numerous theater awards, including the two-time winner of the Kyiv Pectoral Award.

"I was on the train from six in the morning and kept surfing the Internet to find out whether we had won or not," says Rymma Ziubina, "I saw the film at the Mykolaychuk OPEN festival in Chernivtsi. I remember that our entire film community came out after the screening to the square in front of the cinema, a small one. And no one could speak, everyone was silent. Later, I had an interview scheduled, and it was probably the first time in my life that I listened more than I spoke. And then on the way, on the train to Odesa, I caught myself experiencing the same feelings I had when I was 24, when my father died. The same heavy lump in my throat."

"And I wrote to Mstyslav Chernov, not knowing him, about my impressions. And surprisingly, he wrote back: "Thank you, but I can't write much because I'm filming at the front line." Then I congratulated him on his BAFTA award. And, of course, today I also wrote. I don't expect a response soon, I realize that he has already been flooded with congratulations on social media.

"20 Days in Mariupol is not just a movie, it is a document, a tool of influence. It is evidence for those who are still unwilling to open their eyes to the atrocities that are happening in the modern civilized world. It is a testimony for The Hague, it is a memory for our children and grandchildren so that we understand from which side there is always a threat. The film crew spent the first 20 days in Mariupol. They managed to bring all their materials through the checkpoints. That's why I think it's more than just a movie, when we shoot and then go to the editing room to put the picture together, review it, reshoot it if something is wrong. Here, you have one take for one shot."

''Once you see this movie, you live with it forever.'' Film experts on the phenomenon of 20 Days in Mariupol and the hate surrounding Ukrainians at the Oscars

"Ukraine has already been proud of two awards from the American Film Academy. In 2006, they were brought by the founder of the Filmotechnik company, Anatolii Kokush," wrote director Iryna Tsilyk on her Facebook page. Who among Ukrainian filmmakers doesn't know cranes from Filmotechnik? But Hollywood knows them too, and it's nice. Also, ethnic Ukrainians and immigrants used to win Oscars. But today's award is very special for us. It's the first time a Ukrainian director has won an Oscar for a film from Ukraine, so let's celebrate him."

"But I thought that at least on a day like this there would be no treacherous posts about the 20 Days in Mariupol team," Iryna Tsilyk continued in her next post, "I've already seen that they looked too beautiful at the Oscars, with beautiful styling, like, shame on you with red manicures. I also saw that all that can be said about Mstyslav and his team is that their film is not available for legal online viewing in Ukraine. They say they don't give a shit about Ukrainians. I would like to remind you that the film was created by the Associated Press and PBS Frontline, and there are probably reasons why the film is not available to everyone. But I have to emphasize that the film has already been released twice in Ukraine and has gained the status of the highest-grossing Ukrainian documentary. The Ukrainian distributor also informs us that the film will be released on digital platforms this month."

"I want to warn the haters right away – follow the Russian ship," Rymma Ziubina sharply comments on the situation with haters, "I'm running out of patience! Don't know what to do with your energy? Go dig trenches or weave nets. When I'm abroad for creative meetings, people often ask me what I can do for Ukraine. They say I have no money, we have barely moved, and my house is destroyed. I say: every person who is here is an ambassador and the face of Ukraine. So, first of all, take care of this: how you look, what you say, how you communicate with your children, how you behave in everyday life. Ukraine is also judged by this. So tell me, please, how should our Ukrainians have appeared on stage? They represented the country at the Oscars with great dignity, without unnecessary speculation."

Earlier, OBOZ.UA wrote that the victory of 20 Days in Mariupol at the Oscars 2024 caused hysteria in Russia: Russians called the tragedy in Ukraine a fake, and the Kremlin fell into ignorance.

Only verified information is available on our Telegram channel OBOZ.UA and Viber. Do not fall for fakes!

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