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’20 Days in Mariupol’ Director Delivers Powerful Oscar Speech: I Wish to Exchange Award for ‘Russia Never Attacking Ukraine’

’20 Days in Mariupol’ Director Delivers Powerful Oscar Speech: I Wish to Exchange Award for ‘Russia Never Attacking Ukraine’

When “20 Days in Mariupol” took home the Academy Award for outstanding documentary feature on Sunday, director Mstyslav Chernov used his acceptance speech to make a powerful statement in support of Ukraine.

“This is the first Oscar in Ukrainian history. And I’m honored,” Chernov said. “But probably I will be the first director on this stage who will say I wish I had never made this film. I wish to be able to exchange this for Russia never attacking Ukraine, never occupying our cities.”

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He continued, “Russians are killing tens of thousands of my fellow Ukrainians. I wish for them to release all the hostages, all the soldiers who are protecting their lands, all the civilians who are now in their jails. But I cannot change the history. I cannot change the past.”

Chernov then called on Hollywood figures to use their voices to uplift the voices of the Ukrainian people. “We altogether: you. I’m calling on you, some of the most talented people in the world. We can make sure that the history record is set straight and that the truth will prevail and that the people of Mariupol and those who have given their lives will never be forgotten, because cinema forms memories, and memories form history.”

Speaking to Variety in the press room, Chernov elaborated on how he hopes Hollywood can contribute to the end of violence in Ukraine. “History is not always how it happened. It’s how we remember, and the future generations will look back and wonder what’s happening to us right now. They will see through the lens of cinema, whether it’s documentary or scripted,” he said. “Children in Ukraine … when they’re fighting, when they’re hiding spaces and bombs, they wish to escape in a different world.”

Chernov, an Associated Press journalist, filmed the city of Mariupol as it came under heavy artillery bombarding. He didn’t set out to make a film, but to capture everything he witnessed. “It was a necessity,” he told Variety in January.

20 Days in Mariupol” shows a first-hand look at the atrocities in Ukraine, assembled from footage of a maternity hospital being bombed, mass graves, people looting shops for food and more.

See the full list of winners from the Oscars here.

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