20 Days in Mariupol win cut from Oscars international broadcast

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The shortened version of the international broadcast of the 96th Oscars faced harsh criticism in Ukraine for omitting the segment announcing the documentary feature award, which went to Mstyslav Chernov’s 20 Days in Mariupol.

The documentary, a collaboration between The Associated Press and PBS’s Frontline, is a harrowing first-person account set in the Ukrainian port city during the early days of Russia’s invasion in 2022.

Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne, the exclusive broadcaster of the Oscars in the country, published a statement of indignation on Monday.

“Our team was shocked and deeply disappointed when we did not see the category for best feature documentary in the international version, where 20 Days in Mariupol was justly awarded,” said Lukian Halkin, executive producer of the Suspilne Kultura TV channel.

A man in a flack jacket, with the word "press" on it, walks through a misty dirty field littered with detritus.
20 Days in Mariupol is a first-person account set in the Ukrainian port city during the early days of Russia’s invasion in 2022. (Mstyslav Chernov/The Associated Press)

Condensed version of the show

According to Disney, the official international licensing agent for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, decisions were made weeks in advance of Sunday’s telecast on which portions and categories to omit for the condensed version of the show.

International licensees receive two versions of the broadcast: the live version and a 90-minute version, produced by the film academy. The truncated version — which does include a recap of the cut winners, including 20 Days in Mariupol — is often preferred by international broadcasters, Disney says. Suspilne said that instead of the shortened version, it is broadcasting Ukrainian viewers the unedited cut.

“Mstyslav Chernov’s powerful speech emphasized the unity between Ukraine and the world, which makes it all the more disappointing to see this episode full of truth and power excluded from the version distributed to the Oscar’s global licensees,” Halkin said.

The film academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision to cut the documentary category.

‘A victory of truth over falsehood’

The edited version also sparked criticism on various social media platforms in Ukraine, where the documentary’s Academy Award was hailed as a bittersweet but welcome victory.

“The fact that Ukraine received its first Oscar, and that the world will see again the horrors that the Russian army committed in Mariupol, is certainly a victory of truth over falsehood,” Oleksii Kurka, a Kyiv office worker, told the AP.

The AP team of Chernov, photographer Evgeniy Maloletka and producer Vasilisa Stepanenko arrived an hour before Russia began bombing the port city. Two weeks later, they were the last journalists working for an international outlet still in the city, sending crucial dispatches to the outside world showing civilian casualties of all ages, the digging of mass graves, the bombing of a maternity hospital and the sheer extent of the devastation.

The Oscar — and the nomination — were firsts for both Chernov, an AP video journalist, and the 178-year-old news organization. The documentary was a joint production of the AP and PBS’s Frontline. It was the first win for Frontline after two previous nominations.

Three people pose on the red carpet holding gold statuettes.
Raney Aronson-Rath, left, Chernov and Michelle Mizner pose with their Academy Award statuettes on Sunday. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/The Associated Press)

Statuettes were awarded to Chernov, producer and editor Michelle Mizner and producer Raney Aronson-Rath. Maloletka, Stepanenko and Derl McCrudden, an AP vice-president and credited producer on the film, were among those onstage to accept the award.

“We can make sure that the history record is set straight and the truth will prevail, and that the people of Mariupol, and those who have given their lives, will never be forgotten,” Chernov said from the Oscar stage. “Because cinema forms memories and memories form history.”

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