‘20 Days in Mariupol:’ The Dodd Center showcases a harrowing look into war 

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The Dodd Center showcased a documentary by Associated Press journalist Mstyslov Chernov on Thursday, Oct. 19, titled “20 Days in Mariupol.” The film showcases a first-person perspective of the invasion of Ukraine in Mariupol, one of the closest major cities to the Russia-Ukraine border.  

Chernov bravely films citizens affected by Russian air raids, perfectly encapsulating the morale of citizens as their lives come to a screeching halt. As the conflict between Israel and Palestine erupts yet again, this film could not have come out at a more emotionally poignant time. The hardships faced by civilians in Ukraine are not unlike those faced by civilians in Palestine, serving as another haunting reminder of how war affects innocent people. 

“20 Days in Mariupol” was an incredibly hard film to sit through, and several scenes showcasing atrocities committed by the Russian military left many audience members in tears. Chernov films hospital workers struggling to provide aid to the thousands of civilians that need it, in the face of slowly dwindling supplies and medicine. Electricity, water, heating and internet are all disconnected across the city, leaving almost 500 thousand people isolated. 

Following the screening of a film, a live discussion of the documentary’s content delved into the issues facing Ukraine. Three presenters discussed the struggle facing communities affected by war and human rights violations exhibited around the world. The topic of documenting war was also a focal point, considering the hundreds of hours of unseen footage taken in Mariupol showing abhorrent and unwarranted attacks on civilians. 

We have to have documentation of this, not just for history, but more importantly, for the people.

James Waller, Chair in Human Rights Practice and Director of Dodd Human Rights Impact Programs

“We have to have documentation of this, not just for history,” said James Waller, Chair in Human Rights Practice and Director of Dodd Human Rights Impact Programs, “but more importantly, for the people.” A strong element of Chernov’s documentary was just how hard to sit through it was, however that was intentional. Documentation of war should be something that makes the viewer uncomfortable, it’s one of the few ways to drive a point beyond questioning. Waller also brought up the trials in Nuremberg following World War II, and how different history would be if the same level of documentation was available during the Holocaust. 

Another discussion host, Katja Kolcio, an Associate Professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies at Wesleyan University , brought up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which draws a striking number of parallels to the invasion of Ukraine. Kolcio stated that the struggle of war is universal, and while those who live in privilege may not feel the effects of it, they can still provide help. Providing help can be something as simple as writing a letter to a congressman, or just spreading a message to others.  

Towards the end of the film, a Ukrainian soldier that had been protecting a local hospital and conversing with Chernov stated that the images and videos put into this film will change the tide of the war. Chernov bluntly responded in voice over, “How could more death change war?” It’s incredibly impactful to see conflict unfold in such a claustrophobic way. Though the film may have been incredibly upsetting at times, it’s still important to never turn a blind eye towards these issues. 

The Dodd Center will be hosting the Human Rights Summit from Oct. 25 to Oct. 27, featuring guest speakers from all around the world — including several from Ukraine. The summit will focus on a global threat to democracy and ongoing issues involving human rights around the world.  

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