On November 6 at 10:45 p.m., ITV1 and ITVX will host the official premiere of the film The Izyum Mass Grave.

This new documentary tells the story of the search for justice and accountability after a mass grave was discovered last fall in the forest outside the town of Izyum in northeastern Ukraine after six months of brutal Russian occupation.

Back in September 2022, about 450 bodies were found – some tortured, shot, and some killed by incessant shelling.

The British studio 9 Films, together with journalists from the Kharkiv regional publication Gwara Media, worked for a year to prepare the film.

The film intertwines the horrific stories of the victims of the occupation with unique comments from Ukrainian investigators and intelligence agents who are looking for Russians responsible for war crimes.

“When there was no shelling, we dug and buried. When there was shelling, we got out. Cluster shells, rocket launchers, everything, they were just firing, knowing that there was no-one from the military in these buildings, they just hit the civilian population. Just a mass murder of people,” gravedigger Vitaly Borovyi said.

Main characters

Vitaliy Borovyi is one of the main characters, a tall, respectable man and the city’s gravedigger. At the beginning of the conflict, he realized that the growing number of dead, killed in various ways, would need to be buried somewhere, and that their relatives would be looking for them.

Halyna Zhykharieva lost her entire family, including her great-granddaughters aged 6 and 9, when their apartment building was destroyed by an airstrike at the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Their bodies lay under the rubble for several months before they could be recovered. Only now has she been able to bury them with dignity.

Oleksandr Duvanskyi, 73, has been searching for his son Sasha, who is 40, for more than a year. He hopes that his child is still alive and in Russian captivity. He has no positive DNA match from Mohyla, and information from the Russian authorities is scarce.

Mykola Yarytenko went to live with his mother and brother, but the Russians captured his brother, tortured, and then he died the day the Russians came for Mykola. The hero was then held for more than three weeks, tortured and abused, and his brother did not live to find his perpetrators. He hopes to find his body and bury him with honours.

Studio 9 Films

Founded by award-winning filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies, Studio 9 Films specializes in unscripted feature-length documentaries and current affairs programmes about war, conflict, and human rights. We bring to the screen stories of ordinary people who become exceptional when faced with the worst life can bring. We have worked with locally based teams since 2003 when Fiona collaborated with Iraqi blogger, Salam Pax to make the award-winning series – The Baghdad Blogger. We stay with people and places who are often left behind after the news agenda moves on and are fiercely proud of our commitment to these stories, enabling us to embed into communities with insight and deft sensitivity.

Gwara Media

Studio 9 Films has been working with Ukrainian media company, Gwara Media for over 18 months. Based in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Gwara Media has been at the forefront of countering Russian disinformation and propaganda though the war and their Managing Editor, Serhii Prokopenko, was born and grew up in Izium. 

Founded as an independent Ukrainian media platform, Gwara Media has since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine focused on revealing Russian war crimes to wider audiences, reporting on the recovery of Ukrainian communities, and providing a voice to young activists and artists in Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, where Gwara is based.

The media has recently won the Zabel Award from Human Rights First recognizing their “vital role in in defending truth and human rights in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Gwara team comprises Serhii Prokopenko (32) as managing editor and producer of the film, Oleksii Yeroshenko (21) cameraman and AP and Denys Glushko (27) – senior researcher.

More from Gwara

57 bodies from the mass grave on the outskirts of Izium, Kharkiv region, have not been identified as of September 2023.

Up to 100 torture with 700 victims cases are being investigated in Kharkiv Oblast – Prosecutor General. Earlier, the National Police reported that they’ve discovered 28 torture chambers in Kharkiv oblast.