We don’t come away unscathed from watching Mstyslav Chernov’s film 20 Days in Mariupol*, which is competing for the Oscar for best documentary this weekend in Los Angeles. This Ukrainian Associated Press journalist and filmmaker, whose team decided at their own risk to stay alongside the civilians of Mariupol to bear witness to the tragedy as Russian tanks entered the city’s suburbs, will be present at the California ceremony this weekend. A “great honor” and “a chance to remind the West that talking about war fatigue is absurd,” he explains to Le Figaro in an exclusive interview. “Russia is at war against Ukraine but also against you, the United States and Europe. The Russians are very determined. That’s why I try to tell everyone I meet how important it is not to ignore the danger. »

In his film, shot like a logbook, in the heart of a city trapped under indiscriminate bombing, we find all the ingredients of war. Death, fear, chaos, the breathtaking danger that lurks every second, but also the daily heroism of those who help, reassure, protect, care, in conditions bordering on the impossible. “Like all tragedies, war reveals the true nature of human beings. There is a saying that it makes people who are good better, and people who are bad, worse. I agree, it’s a kind of x-ray,” says Mstyslav Chernov. He says that what struck him most during these twenty days was the unity of the Ukrainian nation. “I think the Ukrainians surprised themselves. »

Mstyslav Chernov says that when he showed the film in Ukraine last September, “many people came out of there saying that the film gave them hope,” even though they had cried. “I was surprised but I ended up understanding their reaction. Because if we watch every minute of the film, no one ever really stays alone behind. There is always someone who intervenes, who extends a hand. Doctors, neighbors, journalists. Me too, who sometimes drops my camera to help too. This sense of community, this shared identity is what inspired me. Ukrainian identity has existed for 1,000 years and Ukraine has always been attacked from various sides as a nation. But this war brings us together,” Chernov deciphers. “Even if the world stops supporting Ukraine, there is something that can never be taken away from us: precisely this unity,” he insists.

The film shows the dramatic moment when a maternity hospital in Mariupol is hit by a Russian bomb. Mstyslav and his team are present and can film a pregnant mother, taken to the emergency room injured, but whose doctors cannot save the baby. These terrible images are filmed while Russia absolutely denies having touched maternity and will claim, with complete shame, that it is a set-up. “That’s why this film exists, to show the truth and ensure that the Russians cannot disguise it. The stakes of the battle against lies go beyond the sole case of Mariupol,” explains the journalist, noting that “the Russians, after bombing and totally destroying Avdiiv-ka, now blame the Ukrainians.” “It’s painful, because it means that people die twice, when we deny the reality of their death,” he insists. Chernov, however, refuses to see himself “as a soldier of truth,” noting that he “separates his civilian identity and emotions from his work as a reporter.” “My job is to show the facts, without moralizing, to maintain the trust of our audience,” he concludes. * “20 days in Mariupol” is available in replay on the France Télévisions platform.