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By Gabe Slesinger

On December 3, The Independent Picture House will hold a special screening of 20 Days in Mariupol, a documentary by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mstyslav Chernov. It’s the urgent story of Ukrainian journalists trapped last year in the besieged city of Mariupol. The Los Angeles Times described the film as “a brutal, necessary, heart-pounding reminder of why the siege shocked the world, and what remains at stake whether you’re staying apprised or not. Acrid and harrowing, it’ll slap you awake.”

Following the screening will be a panel discussion organized by the advocacy group Charlotte for Ukraine. On the panel will be members of two families who lived through this horrific event. We spoke to Marina Alexandra, professional guitarist and a founder of Charlotte for Ukraine, as well as two of the families, about the power and potential impact of this documentary.

20 Days in Mariupol Marina Alexandra

Marina Alexandra

Marina, this film includes vivid depictions of war. What would you say to people who may find it difficult to watch? 

I would reply with the famous saying, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” People must watch this movie to hear the Ukrainian story, which is a story of resistance and survival. I hope viewers will find compassion in their hearts to get involved in helping Ukrainians fight for freedom. 

As a musician, what do you think is the role of art during a war like this? 

The purpose of art is to provoke emotions in people. I feel that my purpose as a musician is to speak about the war in Ukraine at my concerts, to make people feel my pain and the pain of 44 million Ukrainians. I respect artists who speak through their art about social issues and justice. Lots of musicians performed concerts fundraisers during the first year of war, and many continue today. 

For the Martinov and Shevchenko families, what do you hope to share with attendees regarding this war? (Translation by Marina Alexandra)

The Martinovs spent 48 hours in Mariupol following the explosion of the first bomb before moving to a nearby town, where they sheltered for one year while under attack: It is important that America learns the truth about this genocide of the Ukrainian people. Russia destroyed the peaceful population of Mariupol from land, sky, and sea. The blockade of Mariupol lasted 85 days, and the brave soldiers of the Ukrainian army held and did not surrender the city to the invaders. 

20 Days in Mariupol

Tatiana and Andrey Shevchenko and their children

The Shevchenkos spent a month and a half in a basement during constant bombardment: Seeing this film will allow people to better understand the current situation in Ukraine, and Eastern Ukraine in particular. This film will help people understand the true scale of the conflict — quite possibly a genocide of the Ukrainian population — and the full price of the Russian seizure of territories. We hope this film can raise awareness of this conflict in the international community and promote support for Ukraine. 

Don’t miss the chance to see this powerful film and hear these families’ stories at a special IPH screening Dec. 3. Get your tickets here.

Gabe Slesinger is a Charlotte Symphony trumpeter, local actor and IPH volunteer.
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