The sun may be shining on the Croisette, which has false holiday airs, but the war in Ukraine and the intervention, at the opening of the 75th Cannes Film Festival, of President Volodymyr Zelensky still resonate in the minds of festival-goers and in theaters – as promised by the festival organizers. Brutal images that need no commentary to describe what the spectator discovers, petrified.

This is the case with Mariapulis 2, a film that should never have seen the light of day and compiles scenes shot by the Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, who died at the end of March in a bombardment by the Russian army, in Mariupol. Added at the last minute in the programming, it gives to “see the life which continues under the bombs. It was his fiancée, Hanna Bilobrova, who was able to bring back the images shot there and edit them. We should see this document soon in theaters.

A stone’s throw from the Azovstal steelworks, the last pocket of resistance of the Ukrainian soldiers before their surrender, we discover in a succession of static shots, without music or voice-over, the daily life of the survivors in the middle of the ruins, incessant detonations, corpses and makeshift graves. Everyone is trying to get out of this chaos by organizing themselves. We take refuge in the basement of a church, we pray together, we cook, we recover an electricity generator under two inert bodies, we help each other. In the distance, at sunset, we follow the trail of missiles and the smoke of the bombardments.

In one hour and forty-five minutes, we experience as a voyeur the banal hell of war and its impact on civilians, some of whom have lost everything, wife and children, locked in grief and desolation. Mantas Kvedaravicius had already shot a first film in Mariupol, during the Donbass war. He returned there, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine last February, “to find the people he had met and filmed between 2014 and 2015”. He paid with his life for his commitment and this desire to bear witness to the resistance of the inhabitants of the martyred city quoted in the production notes: “None of its inhabitants feared death, even if it was omnipresent. Death was already here, and no one wanted to die for nothing. People helped each other, risking their lives. They were smoking outside and chatting, despite the bombs falling. […] There was no longer any past, any future, any judgment, any innuendo. It was heaven in hell, the butterfly’s delicate wings approaching, the smell of death in its raw dimension. It was life that throbbed. Everything is said in these words which perfectly illustrate the point of the documentary filmmaker convinced of the power of images shot on the spot.

Other directors, other Ukrainian films, will be present in Cannes: The Natural History of Destruction by Sergei Loznitsa, about the destruction of German cities by the Allies during the Second World War, and two first films: Butterfly Visions by Maksim Nakonechnyi and Pamfir by Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk. Like what, the festival is not only the world cinema market, it is also its chaotic reflection.