Tim Hetherington Award : Sheffield DocFest 2023

19 June 2023, Sheffield, UK


20 Days In Mariupol


20 Days In Mariupol is an astonishing feat of journalism and of storytelling, two forms that don't always work well together for lesser reporters.  Working in the heat of frontline violence and chaos Mstyslav Chernov creates a cogent reportage that walks the viewer through a horrible transition from the chilly anxiety of peacetime life to the hot despair of war, a journey that took a mere twenty days from the day of the Russian attack on the Ukranian city that commenced on March 24 2022 (although the siege continued a further sixty four days, ending only on May 20 2022).

The images may seem familiar as yet another factual illustration of the damage wrought on Ukraine's wartime cities, but the physical destruction is only a backdrop that contextualises  a deeper story, which is the population’s descent from nervous normality on the eve of war, through disbelief, bewilderment, confusion, anger to raw grief and terror.  It’s a horrifying report of life in conflict which will inform and disturb those of us who have been lucky enough to avoid the real experience of life under military attack. 

Chernov reports with professional detachment, but even as he demonstrates his reliability as an objective reporter Chernov touches one of the third rails of journalism with his first person commentaries that clearly mark him as a participant in the story he's reporting.  And like any third rail this perspective is electrifying.  20 days in Mariupol offers evidence of atrocities inflicted on the city, but the audience does more than merely witness the events of the siege, we are coopted as fellow travelers.  By treading this delicate line with Chernov, we walk beside him as he weaves between cool, dispassionate reporting and his personal distress at what he sees and some of the impossible ethical quandaries facing him as he tries to get the job done.  And although our experience ends at 93 minutes the audience walks away from 20 Days In Mariupol sharing his pulse and gleaning detailed insights that demonstrate the doubts, fears, personal favors and betrayals, mistakes and many tiny incidents of ongoing life in a true conflict zone.

Stephen Mayes

The Tim Hetherington Award recognizes a film and filmmaker which best reflects journalist Tim Hetherington’s legacy and is sponsored by Dogwoof and The Tim Hetherington Trust



Tim Hetherington Award : Sheffield DocFest 2023