’20 Days in Mariupol’ Director Says He Would Forfeit Oscar if It Meant ‘Russia Never Attacking Ukraine’

In his acceptance speech for Best Documentary at the 96th Academy Awards on Sunday night, “20 Days in Mariupol” director Mstyslav Chernov said he’d happily trade the award it it meant that Russia had never invaded Ukraine.

“This is the first Oscar in the Ukrainian history, but I will be the first director on this stage who will say I wish I would never [have] made this film,” Chernov said. “I wish to be able to exchange this [for] Russia never attacking Ukraine, never occupying our cities.”

An emotional Chernov continued, “But I cannot change the history, I cannot change the past.”

He paid tribute to the power of cinema for keeping the memory of the dead alive. “But we all together … some of the most talented people in the world, we can make sure that the history record is set straight and that the truth will prevail. And the people of Mariupol and those who’ve given their lives will never be forgotten, because cinema forms memories and memories form history.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, and is still waging war more than two years later. On Feb. 25, the Office of the President of Ukraine reported that 31,000 Ukrainians have been killed since the conflict began, with 15,000 more missing.

“20 Days in Mariupol” follows Associated Press reporters who stayed in the port town of Mariupol rather than leave the country. For the first 20 days of the war, they chronicled the devastation and sent out footage in 10-second clips when they could find working cell service.

PBS helped produce the film and Chernov himself narrates in English. It premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. You can read TheWrap’s review from Steve Pond here.

The other nominees in the documentary feature category this year were “Bobi Wine: The People’s President,” “The Eternal Memory,” “Four Daughters” and “To Kill a Tiger.”

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