Documentaries as a Fragile Shelter for Truth, Responsibility, and Impact

this human world - International Human Rights Film Festival
Panels and Discussions

After the film screening of "20 Days in Mariupol", we continued with a discussion titled "Documentaries as a Fragile Shelter for Truth, Responsibility, and Impact". It explored the pivotal role of documentaries in preserving and disseminating the truth in the face of adversity. The Russian regime aims to erode our belief in the prevalence of goodness worldwide through the use of propaganda, fake news, and accusations of orchestrating war crimes. This concerted effort undermines the foundation of truth, a cornerstone of human progress. The objectivity of documentary filmmaking is no longer feasible as the Russo-Ukrainian War compels us to reconsider the concept of so-called “cultural apoliticism” and the weakness of the international agreements that were meant to uphold peace after World War II. We will discuss how documenting reality shapes the history of humanity and the personal and professional challenges filmmakers face when placed in the epicentre of historical events.

Alisa Kovalenko is a Ukrainian documentary film director and member of the European Film Academy. Her first feature documentary, "Alisa in Warland," premiered at IDFA Amsterdam in 2015. In 2022, she joined the Ukrainian Volunteer Army to defend her country in the face of Russian armed aggression. Her film "We Will Not Fade Away" premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival Berlinale in February 2023.

Katherine Younger is a Permanent Fellow at the IWM, overseeing the Documenting Ukraine and the Ukraine in European Dialogue program. She is a historian of modern Europe focusing on Ukraine; she received her PhD from Yale University in 2018. Her research concentrates on practices of international politics, forms of imperial governance, and the relationship between religion and power. 

Roman Liubyi is a Ukrainian director, editor, and animator. Since 2013, he has been a member of the Babylon’13: cinema of civil society film collective. His first feature-length documentary, “War Note,” was edited from found footage shot by Ukrainian soldiers on the frontline in 2014. His film “Iron Butterflies” had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and its European premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival Berlinale in 2023.

Stéphane Siohan is a French author and documentary producer. In 2016, he created East Roads Films, a production crafting creative documentaries from Ukraine and Eastern Europe. Stéphane co-produced Alisa Kovalenko’s award-winning films. In May 2022, Stéphane authored a biographic essay in French of the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, published in 15 countries. Stéphane also covers the Russian invasion of Ukraine for Libération(Paris), Le Temps (Geneva), and Radio France Internationale.

The discussion was moderated by Kseniia Kharchenko, a Ukrainian writer, member of PEN Ukraine, and cultural manager and program manager for the Documenting Ukraine project.


This film is presented within “The Context of Truth,” a special program curated by Olga Birzul in collaboration between Documenting Ukraine program at the IWM and this human world — International Human Rights Film Festival. Four selected documentaries give the context of Ukrainian reality as well as highlight the virtues of care, solidarity, empathy, and resilience that help to counteract Russian agony.