Oscar nomination for '20 Days in Mariupol' is a first for the 178-year-old Associated Press

NEW YORK — NEW YORK (AP) — “20 Days in Mariupol,” Mstyslav Chernov’s harrowing chronicle of the besieged Ukrainian city and the international journalists who remained there after Russia’s invasion, has been nominated for best documentary at the Academy Awards, handing The Associated Press its first Oscar nomination in the 178-year-old news organization’s history.

The film, a co-production between the AP and PBS’ “Frontline,” was shot during the first three weeks of the war in Ukraine, in early 2022. Chernov, a Ukrainian journalist and filmmaker, arrived in Mariupol one hour before Russia began bombarding the port city. With him were photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and field producer Vasilisa Stepanenko.

The images and stories they captured — the death of a 4-year-old girl, freshly dug mass graves, the bombing of a maternity hospital — unflinchingly documented the grim, relentless realities of the unfolding siege.

“Despite extremely challenging and deeply personal circumstances, AP’s Mariupol team offered the world an essential window into the Russia-Ukraine war as it was beginning to unfold,” AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Julie Pace said in a statement. “That the academy has chosen to recognize ‘20 Days in Mariupol’ is a testament to the power of eyewitness journalism and the bravery of the journalists on the ground. We are incredibly proud of Mstyslav Chernov, Evgeniy Maloletka, Vasilisa Stepanenko and the entire ‘20 Days in Mariupol’ team.”

The work of Chernov, Maloletka, Stepanenko and Lori Hinnant last year won the Pulitzer Prize for public service and featured prominently in a Pulitzer for breaking news photography. Since the Sundance Film Festival premiere of “20 Days in Mariupol” a year ago, Chernov’s film — now available to watch for free in North America on YouTube,PBS and other streaming services — has been hailed as one of the most important nonfiction films of the year. It’s also been nominated by the BAFTAs, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild for best documentary, and the Academy also shortlisted it for best international film.

Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine is nearing the two-year mark. Fighting through the winter is mired along a 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) front line. In recent months, Russian aerial attacks have sharply increased civilian casualties.

The war in Ukraine and other conflicts, including the war between Israel and Hamas, have been particularly dangerous for journalists. In December, the International Federation of Journalists said 94 journalists were killed around the world in 2023 and almost 400 were imprisoned.

In “20 Days in Mariupol,” Chernov, Maloletka and Stepanenko are challenged not just by the artillery shells falling around them but by the Russian blockade of the city. Water, food supplies and, critically, the internet were cut from Mariupol days into the invasion. The journalists had to search for places to file their dispatches from, sending minutes of their hours of footage.

The other nominees for documentary feature are: “Four Daughters,” “Bobi Wine: The People’s President,” “The Eternal Memory” and “To Kill a Tiger.”

As documentary filmmaking has proliferated in recent years, news organizations have played prominent roles in Oscar-nominated documentaries. Last year, CNN Films won its first Oscar for the Alexei Navalny documentary “Navalny.” In 2022, the New York Times took its first Academy Award for the documentary short “The Queen of Basketball.” Last year, four New Yorker shorts received four Oscar nominations.

The 96th Oscars are on March 10.


For more coverage of the 2024 Oscars, visit https://apnews.com/hub/academy-awards

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