The Associated Press (AP) has entered its first-ever Oscar nomination in the 178-year history of the news organization. The nomination comes in the Best Documentary category for “20 Days in Mariupol,” a chronicle of the besieged Ukrainian city during the early weeks of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.
The film, a collaborative effort between the AP and PBS’ “Frontline,” is courage and resilience of international journalists in the face of unimaginable circumstances.
Directed by Mstyslav Chernov, a Ukrainian journalist and filmmaker, the documentary shows the realities of war through the lenses of Chernov, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, and field producer Vasilisa Stepanenko.
Chernov and his team arrived in Mariupol just one hour before Russia commenced its bombardment of the port city.
From that moment on, they went on a journey, documenting the incidents with unflinching determination.
The images captured, from the death of a 4-year-old girl to the bombing of a maternity hospital and freshly dug mass graves.
On the Oscar nomination, Chernov expressed a bittersweet sentiment. While acknowledging the recognition for their work, he addressed the colossal tragedy that the film represents for humanity, particularly for Ukrainians who have endured loss of lives.
In an interview, Chernov stated, “Every single nomination, every single prize, every single recognition for this film means that we are able to tell this story to more people, to make sure it’s not going to be forgotten.”
The announcement of the Oscar nomination coincided with a poignant moment for Chernov. While in Paris for a screening of “20 Days in Mariupol,” he learned that his hometown of Kharkiv had been bombed earlier that day by Russian forces, resulting in casualties and damage to residential buildings.
The film has gained attention not only for its raw portrayal of Mariupol’s siege but also for its importance as a symbol of every Ukrainian city affected by Russian bombs.
The war in Ukraine, now approaching its two-year mark, continues to inflict suffering along a 1,500-kilometer front line, with escalating civilian casualties from Russian aerial attacks.
“20 Days in Mariupol” documentary, as the journalists faced not only the challenges of artillery shells but also a Russian blockade that severed essential lifelines like water, food supplies, and internet connectivity.
The documentary captures the tenacity and commitment of journalists striving to bring the truth to the world, even amidst the war.
The recognition of “20 Days in Mariupol” by the Academy follows its earlier achievements, including winning the Pulitzer Prize for public service and earning accolades from prestigious institutions such as the BAFTAs, Producers Guild, and Directors Guild. The film has been one of the most important nonfiction works of the year.
As the documentary continues to receive acclaim, it stands as a reminder of the dangers faced by journalists covering conflicts worldwide. The International Federation of Journalists reported that 94 journalists lost their lives in 2023.
More than 10,000 civilians have lost their lives, and nearly 20,000 have been injured since Russia’s invasion began.
The documentary’s narrative has Mariupol, becoming a symbol of the Ukrainian experience and the struggle against Russian aggression.
In the words of AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Julie Pace, the Academy’s recognition is a testament to the bravery of the journalists on the ground, providing a window into the Russia-Ukraine war.
The 96th Oscars, scheduled for March 10, will be a momentous occasion for “20 Days in Mariupol” and its creators.
The success of “20 Days in Mariupol” follows a trend where documentaries produced by news outlets receive recognition on prestigious platforms.
CNN Films and The New York Times, among others, have previously secured Oscar victories for their documentary works.