AP wins the best-documentary prize at the BAFTA awards for Ukraine film ’20 Days in Mariupol’

LONDON (AP) — The Associated Press won the best documentary prize at the British Academy Film Awards for Ukraine war documentary “20 Days in Mariupol,” produced with PBS’ “Frontline.”

Filmmaker Mstyslav Chernov admitted the accolade made him feel conflicted.

“It’s a huge honor. It’s a huge responsibility,” the Ukrainian journalist said after winning the trophy Sunday at London’s Royal Festival Hall. “This is not about us. This is about Ukraine and about the people of Mariupol.”

Chernov and an AP team spent three weeks in the Ukrainian port city as it was besieged by Russian forces in early 2022, documenting at huge personal risk the devastating toll on civilian and capturing enduring images of the war.

Chernov arrived in Mariupol one hour before Russia began its bombardment, along with 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 siege.

The work of Chernov, Maloletka, Stepanenko and Lori Hinnant last year won the Pulitzer Prize for public service, and the film has won numerous accolades, including a Directors Guild Award. It is nominated in the best documentary category at the March 10 Academy Awards, the first-ever Oscar nomination for the 178-year-old AP.

Almost two years on since Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian cities continue to be bombarded, with Russia claiming over the weekend to have captured the eastern city of Avdiivka after a long, grinding battle.

“Cities get occupied and destroyed and our work represents what is happening to Ukraine now,” Chernov said.

He said the story of Mariupol “is a symbol of struggle and a symbol of faith. Thank you for empowering our voice and let’s just keep fighting.”

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.

Producer Derl McCrudden, the AP’s head of global news production, said the award “reinforces the power of eyewitness journalism.”

“And now, more than ever, having brave colleagues go to the field and report from the world’s hotspots is more important,” he said. “Telling truth to power, reporting faithfully events: that’s what this win represents.”

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