A STUDIO 9 FILMS PRODUCTION
WITH GWARA MEDIA
FOR ITV EXPOSURE
RTS Television Journalism Awards 2024 Nominee
Current Affairs - International
Over one year, The Grave tells the story of the search for justice and accountability after a mass grave was discovered last autumn in a forest outside the city of Izium in northwest Ukraine. It followed six months of brutal Russian occupation. Nearly 450 bodies were found - some had been tortured, some shot, and some had died as a result of the relentless bombardment of the area.
While grieving families and relatives seek justice for alleged war crimes, others are still searching for their loved ones - fearing they might be identified among the dead. The film, for the BAFTA-winning Exposure strand, interweaves haunting first-hand survivor accounts of the occupation with access to the Ukrainian investigators and secret service agents hunting down the Russians they believe are responsible. In the words of one: “What the Russian military has done, it is against humanity. It could be called genocide”.
Director of Photography
bodies found in the grave
of which were civilians
bodies not yet identified
days under occupation
of Izium's infrastructure damaged
WITHIN DAYS OF RUSSIA'S INVASION OF UKRAINE AT THE END OF FEBRUARY 2022, THE CITY OF IZIUM CAME UNDER INTENSE ATTACK.
AFTER SIX MONTHS OF OCCUPATION, IZIUM WAS FINALLY LIBERATED BY UKRAINIAN FORCES ON 10 SEPTEMBER 2022
THE MASS GRAVE WAS REVEALED
THIS IS THE STORY OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THE WEEKS AND MONTHS THAT FOLLOWED, AS TOLD BY THE PEOPLE WHO LIVED THROUGH IT
Oksana is a deputy head of department for Kharkiv Police. Before the Russian occupation, she handled cases of violent crimes including murder and rape, but has since had to expand her expertise into war crimes to meet the challenge of investigating the grave.
Our team first meet Vitaly in January 2023 and filmed with him throughout the year. He works for Ritual Funeral Services, the only funeral director in Izium, and was in the town all through the Russian occupation.
Oleksandr's son Sasha was last seen in August 2022 after being abducted by Russians, according to an eye witness account. With the help of human rights lawyers and the Ukrainian authorities, Oleksandr is on a mission to find his son; if alive, he may be detained in Russia; but, if dead, his body may be in the grave.
As Police Chief of Izium, Hrinchak has the chilling task of investigating the former schools and offices that became torture facilities at the hands of the Russians. A Human Rights Watch report concluded that "Russian forces... routinely tortured detainees during their six-month occupation of Izium."
STUDIO 9 FILMS TEAM
"Having worked with Tom Giles [commissioning editor] at the BBC, it has been a real pleasure reconnecting with him almost a decade later. It has been exciting to work with a former filmmaker who is as passionate as I am about brining these difficult but compelling stories to the screen.”
"It was only after consistently going back to Oksana and Lyudmyla (Kharkiv Police) over many months that they really opened up. Other foreign journalists came and went but we made the time and effort to help them feel secure in sharing the powerful and defining nuances of their story with us."
Throughout the making of The Grave, Studio 9 Films has worked closely in collaboration with Gwara Media, an international award-winning online media platform based in Kharkiv working fearlessly to cover the earth-shaking events of Russia's war on Ukraine.
Serhii is Managing Director of Gwara Media, the only English-language news media outlet in the Kharkiv region. The company recently won the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award which recognises “courageous activists and organisations on the frontlines of the struggle for freedom and dignity.”
"Working on The Grave was a defining experience for me. I want the international community to see that war is not just headlines, numbers and facts but the stories of millions of people. We recorded the Russian occupation of Izium from the mouths of people who lived through it. This is the greatest pride for me."
In addition to a long-standing working relationship with Studio 9 Films, Robin is Head of Production for Hardcash Productions, working on Exposure, Panorama and Dispatches.
Natasha is passionate about production and works as a producer, production coordinator and manager. She is also an experienced script supervisor who has extensive knowledge of the filmmaking process from script development to filming and editing.
William joined Studio 9 Films in March 2023 after completing an MSc in international relations at SOAS University of London. He is an aspiring filmmaker.