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AP, Frontline documentary ‘20 Days in Mariupol’ to make world premiere at Sundance Film Festival

The new feature film “20 Days in Mariupol” from The Associated Press and Frontline, the award-winning PBS documentary series housed at GBH in Boston, will make its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this January in Park City, Utah, and be featured in the festival’s World Cinema Documentary Competition.

People take shelter in the basement of a youth theater in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. Still from AP and Frontline PBS feature film “20 Days in Mariupol.” (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
People take shelter in the basement of a youth theater in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. Still from AP and Frontline PBS feature film “20 Days in Mariupol.” (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)

This moving and important documentary will be the first Frontline or AP original documentary to debut at the world-renowned film festival.

Told through the perspective of Ukrainian-born director and AP video journalist Mstyslav Chernov, “20 Days in Mariupol” is a visceral, first-person view of the early days of Russia’s invasion of the city of Mariupol, Ukraine. 

Chernov and his colleagues, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and field producer Vasilisa Stepanenko, were the last international reporters to remain in Mariupol as Russian troops attacked the city. Together they documented what would become defining images of the war: dying children, mass graves, the bombing of a maternity hospital, and more.

Produced and edited by Frontline’s Michelle Mizner, “20 Days in Mariupol” draws on Chernov’s daily news dispatches and personal footage of his own country at war. The result is a raw and haunting account of a journalist risking his life to share the truth of the conflict with the world.

Bearing witness to the horrors that enveloped the city, “20 Days in Mariupol” captures the beginning of the war through the lens of a Ukrainian journalist documenting the devastation of his home country. 

Much of Chernov’s video and the visuals from his colleagues have been widely published around the world, from corpses in the streets, to panicked, displaced civilians desperate to flee, to grief-stricken parents of children who died from Russian shelling – events reported by AP and Frontline as possible war crimes. The AP footage also directly refutes Russian misinformation about the war. 

Chernov has covered Ukraine and other international conflicts for The Associated Press for nearly a decade. “20 Days in Mariupol” is his first feature film. 

“We went to Mariupol not with the intention of making a documentary, but to contemporaneously report on what was happening. We later realized that, together, these video dispatches could tell a fuller story of what happened to the city’s people – a story that I hope will help audiences understand the scale of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the horrors that unfolded in Mariupol,” said Chernov. 

“We are honored to work with Mstyslav Chernov and The Associated Press to share ‘20 Days in Mariupol’ with the world, and hope that this film can be both a historical document of this conflict and a reminder of war’s true human toll,” said Frontline Editor-in-Chief and Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath. “We are grateful to the Sundance Institute for including ‘20 Days in Mariupol’ in its 2023 film festival lineup, to Mstyslav, Michelle and the rest of the film team for their craft and thoughtfulness in telling this harrowing story, and to our colleagues at GBH, PBS and CPB for their unwavering support of this critical journalism.”

“The work of Mstyslav Chernov and his colleagues documenting the siege of Mariupol was nothing short of heroic. Without their intrepid coverage of the violence and carnage, the world would not have seen what was happening. This underscores the value of independent journalism – without it, the facts simply would not be known,” said AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Julie Pace. “We are so pleased to work with Frontline to produce ‘20 Days in Mariupol’ and are honored that the Sundance Institute selected it to premiere at its prestigious film festival.”

“20 Days in Mariupol” is part of a larger editorial collaboration between Frontline and AP examining Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

“20 Days in Mariupol” will be distributed by PBS Distribution.


FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 104 Emmy Awards and 28 Peabody Awards. Visit and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced at GBH in Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional support for FRONTLINE is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Park Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund, with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation, and additional support from Koo and Patricia Yuen.

About AP

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