February 27, 2024

Two of the top contenders for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards have something to celebrate ahead of their upcoming Oscar showdown.

On Saturday night, The Eternal Memory, directed by Chilean filmmaker Maite Alberdi, was named Best IberoAmerican Film at the Goya Awards in Valladolid, Spain. Meanwhile, on this side of the Atlantic, Mstyslav Chernov’s 20 Days in Mariupol won Best Documentary at the DGA Awards held at the Beverly Hilton.

As she accepted the Goya – Spain’s equivalent of the Oscar – Alberdi was joined on stage by Paulina Urrutia, one of the two protagonists of the film. The Eternal Memory, or La Memoria Infinita as it is called in Spanish, tells the love story between Urrutia and Augusto Góngora, a bond that only deepened after Augusto was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 62.

Director Maite Alberdi gestures toward Paulina Urrutia as she accepts the Goya Award.

Javier Soriano/AFP via Getty Images

Urrutia is an actress and academic who served as Chile’s minister of culture after the fall of dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Góngora co-authored a book called Chile: The Forbidden Memory, which documented the years of political repression under Pinochet. As a journalist during Pinochet’s rule, he helped maintain the record of resistance against the autocrat, and after the general’s ouster in 1990, Augusto worked to restore his country’s civic memory and cultural vitality.

In her acceptance speech, Alberdi saluted Urrutia for her willingness to publicly share the story of her relationship with her late partner. “Her husband Augusto,” Alberdi noted, “said the way to reconstitute collective memory was not from numbers nor information, but from emotional memory. And even when he lost his memory, he always remembered his pain and his loves. Historical memory is built by narrating and sharing pain.”

At the DGAs, 20 Days in Mariupol faced off against fellow Oscar nominee Bobi Wine: The People’s President (directed by Moses Bwayo and Christopher Sharp); Beyond Utopia (directed by Madeleine Gavin); Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (directed by Davis Guggenheim), and Kokomo City, directed by D. Smith.

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary winner Ukranian filmmaker Mstyslav Chernov for

Director Mstyslav Chernov displays his DGA Award.

Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

In an understandably sober acceptance speech, Chernov referenced the awards plaque. “I want to thank DGA for this recognition, although unfortunately we can’t stop a bullet with it or protect a child from shrapnel,” he said, adding that his hometown of Kharkiv, Ukraine had been bombed that very day by Russian forces.

“Seven people got killed, three who are children. So, it is sad day,” he observed. “At the same time, I recognize the power of cinema by standing here and looking at you because when those children, when those people run [from] bombs that are falling on them, they sit in basements and to cope with their fear, they watch films. Cinema not just leaves stories in history for next generations… I think it also helps us all to cope with sometimes unbearable worlds, unfair worlds and gives us hope to stop everything bad that has happened and to just to go towards a better future.”

20 Days in Mariupol is nominated for another upcoming Oscar bellwether – the PGA Awards, which will be held in Hollywood on Sunday, Feb. 25. It’s the only Oscar-nominated documentary to receive a PGA nomination; the other films in the category are American Symphony, Beyond Utopia, The Disappearance of Shere Hite, The Mother of All Lies, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood, and Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis).

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