The United States and Britain have invited ambassadors, journalists and representatives of a broad spectrum of society to a U.N. screening of the award-winning documentary “20 Days in Mariupol,” which follows a trio of Associated Press journalists during Russia’s relentless siege of the Ukrainian port city in the early days of the war.
UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward said the Monday evening screening at U.N. headquarters is important because “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens what the U.N. stands for: an international order where the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries is fundamental.”
The screening comes at the start of the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly and a week before world leaders arrive for their annual meeting, where the more than 18-month war in Ukraine is expected to be in the spotlight – especially with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy scheduled to speak in person for the first time.
The harrowing documentary, which was produced by the AP and the PBS series “Frontline,” is culled from 30 hours of footage AP journalist Mstyslav Chernov and his colleagues shot in Mariupol following Russia’s Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine and its siege of the city.
It documents fighting in the streets, the crushing strain on Mariupol’s residents, and attacks that killed pregnant women, children and others. The siege, which ended on May 20, 2022, with the surrender of a small group of outgunned and outmanned Ukrainian fighters at the Azovstal steel plant, left thousands dead and the city in ruins.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said “‘20 Days in Mariupol’ is a living document of the horrors of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war of aggression.”
“We must bear witness to these atrocities and reaffirm our commitment to justice and peace in Ukraine,” she said.
The AP’s reporting from Mariupol drew the Kremlin’s ire, with its U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, claiming during a Security Council meeting in the siege’s early days that photos showing the aftermath of a missile strike on a maternity hospital were staged.
AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Julie Pace called the documentary “a testament to the power and impact of eyewitness journalism,” stressing that without it, “the world would not have known the atrocities that took place.”
“To have the film screened at the United Nations as the U.N. General Assembly gets underway underscores the importance of fact-based journalism on a global scale,” she said.
“20 Days in Mariupol” won the Sundance Global Audience Award for Best Documentary and several other prizes. Director Chernov was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service along with photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, producer Vasilisa Stepanenko and Paris-based correspondent Lori Hinnant for their “courageous reporting” on Mariupol.
Raney Aronson-Rath, editor-in-chief and executive producer of “Frontline,” called it “deeply meaningful” to have the opportunity to screen the documentary at the United Nations. She said the producers continue to share the film around the world to give audiences the opportunity to “bear witness to the atrocities that Ukrainians have endured.”