On March 19, just under a month after the start russian invasion of ukraine, the documentary filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius and his partner, Hanna Bilobrova, came to Mariupol to tell the story of the people who had been trapped under the incessant bombardment. They arrived with supplies and They tried to get to the city theater where dozens of people took refuge from Russian attacks. A few days earlier the theater was bombed and destroyed, leaving Ukrainians on the streets looking for a new place to shelter. They found a hole in a dilapidated Methodist church. It was there that the two filmmakers arrived and discovered nearly 40 people surviving in an act of resistance amidst the horror.
A couple of weeks later, on April 2, Mantas Kvedaravicius was gunned down by Russian soldiers and died instantly. From that day on, Hanna Bilobrova wandered through the dilapidated and still bombed-out city looking for the body of her partner to get him out of the country. She, together with him, managed to escape with the images that they had recorded in those days in which they lived in the basement of a church that became a strange home for them.
Images recorded by Kvedaravicius have been presented at the Cannes Film Festival, where the screening of his documentary Mariupolis 2 in a special screening has become one of the most emotional and hardest moments of this edition. The film was finished editing three days before the contest and has shocked for its realistic portrayal of what life is like under the bombs. There is no sensationalist portrait in the director's gaze that looks for gruesome testimonies. There are no statements on camera, or underlining. Nor music to move. His camera becomes another inhabitant of that church.
It is not a typical war documentary, because it does not show what everyone expects: death in the foreground. What it does is put you in a day to day in which the 24 hours pass under a constant and thunderous sound: that of the bombs. From the first second of the documentary is the only soundtrack. It is by the noise level that you know if the bomb is falling near or far. That constant sound produces a state of constant irritation and fear. A state of alert since at any moment what they have already seen in their neighbors and relatives can happen.
We see how they cook and we see what is not normally shown. Without electricity or provisions, survival becomes increasingly difficult. They build a fire in the open air, cook soup with the few vegetables and potatoes they have, and share everything in a solidarity that has united many strangers. While the stew is cooking, everyone takes cover. The noise of the bombs continues to sound.
It is a daily portrait that also shows how these Ukrainians in no man's land have become accustomed to living with death. From time to time they must come out of their shelter, and that is where all the consequences of war are clearly observed. On the sides of the devastated streets there are bodies lying. It does not matter that Mantas Kvedaravicius does not show them explicitly. They look. In fact, it is the dead who unwittingly become suppliers of raw materials. When the expedition goes out and sees a body, they go to see if it had batteries, battery or food. Anything goes to endure. There are makeshift graves in patios of what were once houses. Almost all of them have dried flowers, because no one has stayed to honor the deceased.
There are also testimonies of the people who have been trapped in that church that resists among the rubble. They arise between small talk, but it is in those moments that despair appears in a man who has seen his wife die and his house bombed and who refuses to leave and flee because he has nowhere to go. Also the one who already dreamed of his retirement after 32 years working and has seen how his home and all his belongings have been devastated by a war that he does not understand.
The city they knew is now ruins and smoke. There is no noise of cars or people, only the bombs that have become the only sound they hear. Mariupolis 2 is a first-person testimony of those who do not have the attention of the news either. A documentary that ends with the face of its creator and remembering the date of his death. A tribute to all those who risk their lives to tell what happens in this war.