Mstyslav Chernov’s 20 Days in Mariupol (2023): Citizens Under Fire A+

I have no illusions about what will happen to us is we are cuaght

Mstyslav Cherno (film director)

Wars don’t start with explosions, they start with silence

Mstyslav Cherno (film director)

Mstyslav Cherno’s masterful documentary chronicles the period the director and his crew spent in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol when Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces attacked it. With a strategic natural port and a large industrial center, Mariupol is situated on a land bridge to the Crimea. The Russians tried to take it eight years previously, and they failed. Then, in the early days of the ongoing Ukranian War, they tried again and succeeded. Russian forces have occupied the city since May of 2022, when the siege, which lasted from February to May, ended.

20 Days in Mariupol

There were no directives to evacuate the city, but some people left while they still could. There were almost no actual bomb shelters in the city, so those who decided to stay hid in the basements of their apartment buildings. The lights went out as air strikes and missiles laid waste to not just the city’s infrastructure and military posts but civilian targets as well. As martial law was declared, electricity, telephone and internet access, fire stations, hospitals, and more were systematically removed. Meanwhile, hundreds of casualties crowded the few emergency medical facilities that were still operational. The rest were left as corpses on the streets and eventually put in mass graves for lack of other options. It is estimated that over 20,000 people were killed.

It felt like the beginning of the third world war…It still does.

Mstyslav Cherno (film director)


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