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Monday February 06, 2023

Ukraine directors bring horrors of Russian invasion to Sundance

Director Mstyslav Chernov, a journalist, filmed the key port city of Mariupol as Russian troops advanced in February and March 2021

By Web Desk
January 22, 2023
Ukraine directors bring horrors of Russian invasion to Sundance
Ukraine directors bring horrors of Russian invasion to Sundance

Park City, United States: Two new documentaries from Ukrainian filmmakers highlighting the carnage wrought on their country by Russian aggression premiere at the Sundance film festival this week.

"20 Days In Mariupol," which screened Friday night, portrays in harrowing detail the arrival of war last year to a city that became one of the invasion´s bloodiest battle sites, all captured by video journalists under siege.

And "Iron Butterflies," premiering Sunday, chronicles the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by Russian-armed separatists in eastern Ukraine, and its foreshadowing of today´s larger conflict.

Director Mstyslav Chernov, a journalist who filmed the key port city of Mariupol as Russian troops advanced in February and March 2021, said he hopes releasing his footage as a documentary "hits deeper" and "harder" with audiences than brief newsreel clips can.

"It really gives an insight to not only fuller stories of people who are there, but also to how big scale the story is," he said.

"20 Days In Mariupol" offers a behind-the-scenes look at how Chernov risked his life to chronicle a Russian direct hit on a maternity hospital, which provoked outrage around the world.

The film recounts how Chernov and his team desperately tried to escape the city in order to transmit their shocking footage, even as Russian officials tried to dismiss the horrific incident as a hoax assembled using Ukrainian "actors."

Mariupol "was the first insight of how different Russia´s narrative about this war is to reality," said Chernov.

Russian officials "were saying that they´re not targeting civilians."

"You will see in the film me keep asking people, ´Russian Federation is not targeting civilians?´ And you will see people reply, ´Well, they are.´"

Moscow´s weaponization of misinformation is also central to "Iron Butterflies," which takes its name from the shrapnel within the Russian-made BUK missile that struck passenger plane MH17 in 2014, killing 298 people.

The movie combines newsreel and social media footage with intercepted military audio, to show how the Russian response went from claiming separatists had downed a Ukrainian military aircraft, to blaming Kyiv for the civilian deaths.

It also contrasts the findings of an exhaustive international probe into the incident, with Russia´s claim of another hoax.

Director Roman Liubyi said he tried to remain "scientific" and avoid becoming angry while editing the film. (AFP)