Two films in this program focus on the daily experience of the war in Ukraine. They document, with dedication and often at great risk, the experiences of those whose lives were dramatically shattered by the full-scale invasion of the Russian military. Filming in Mariupol in spring 2022, Ukrainian photographer, videographer, and filmmaker Mstyslav Chernov, documented the fight over the city and the early days of its siege, providing first-hand video reportage for international media. By assembling the footage into an immersive, painful account from one of the epicenters of the unfolding war, he made 20 days in Mariupol, which The Guardian reviewer Peter Bradshaw deemed "the uncut, unexpurgated version: the real nightmare, the real explicit obscenity which no TV executive would put on the nightly news."
From the outset of the invasion, thousands of diverse citizens across Europe volunteered and showed their commitment to helping displaced civilians, the majority of which are women with children. Oksana Moiseniuk, a Ukrainian filmmaker based in the Czech Republic, documented the first responses of Ukrainian volunteers in Prague, who self-organized to offer humanitarian aid to those forced to flee from shelling in the first days of the invasion, and to those who remained in Ukraine. The film introduces the feelings, thoughts, and actions of many of the helpers, as well as those searching for temporary protection abroad (The 8th day of war).
The precise temporal references in the titles of these films emphasize their status of diary-like, first-hand witness accounts, both from within and outside the country; these films are important human documents in the context of deafening media “white noise.” Such personal documentaries help restore our trust in the testimonial potential of records, and preserve these experiences for present and future viewers. They are painful, yet vital antidotes to propaganda and disinformation.