When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago this month, instinct told Ukrainian photojournalist and war correspondent Mstyslav Chernov to head to Mariupol, a strategically important city located on the along the Sea of Azov. His intuition proved correct.
Within an hour of arriving there with a small team, Russia began bombarding Mariupol – the first salvo in a siege that would strangulate the city of half a million people, killing tens of thousands of civilians. The harrowing footage Chernov captured became the substance of 20 Days in Mariupol, the documentary that has earned the director the first Oscar nomination of his career.
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Chernov joins the latest edition of Deadline’s Doc Talk podcast to discuss what the Oscar nomination means for his film and Russia’s efforts to sow a false counter-narrative to the carnage he documented. We also welcome another first-time Oscar nominee, director Nisha Pahuja, recognized for her gripping film To Kill a Tiger.
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Pahuja spent eight years working on her documentary, set in a small village in Indian state of Jharkhand. It centers on Ranjit, a poor farmer who kept a special place in his heart for his eldest daughter, Kiran. When, at the age of 13, she became the victim of a brutal sexual assault by three young men, Ranjit supported his daughter and pressed for justice, even though seemingly the entire village demanded he sweep the matter under the rug.
Pahuja tells us about the family’s reaction to seeing their story nominated for an Academy Award. Chernov, meanwhile, explains how Mariupol has become a symbol for all of Ukraine, and he tells us whether he agrees with a recent CIA assessment that the war has weakened Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During the podcast, listen for an unexpected moment in the interview with Chernov, who is interrupted in mid-thought by someone very dear to him.
Last fall, we focused an episode of Doc Talk on another of the five nominees for Best Documentary Feature – Bobi Wine: The People’s President. You can listen to that here. And in next week’s episode of the pod, we will speak with two more of the Oscar nominees in the doc feature category: director Maite Alberdi of The Eternal Memory, and director Kaouther Ben Hania of Four Daughters.
Doc Talk is co-hosted by Oscar winner John Ridley and Matt Carey, Deadline’s documentary editor. The podcast is a production of Deadline and Ridley’s Nō Studios and presented with support from National Geographic Documentary Films.
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