Studio 9 Films has been commissioned by ITV1 and ITVX to produce The Grave, a 66-minute documentary for the BAFTA-winning Exposure strand.

This new documentary broadcasting on 6 November on ITV1 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 North Eastern Ukraine after 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.

Filmed over a year The Grave interweaves haunting first-hand survivor accounts of the occupation with unique access to Ukrainian investigators and secret service agents hunting down the Russians they believe are responsible.

The Grave was commissioned by Tom Giles, Controller of Current Affairs ITV, and UK-based 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 throughout the war; its Managing Editor, Serhii Prokopenko, was born and grew up in Izium. Prokopenko has recently won the Zabel Award from Human Rights First recognising their “vital role in in defending truth and human rights in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine”.

Fiona Lloyd-Davies, Executive Producer of The Grave and Founder of Studio 9 Films, said: “Having worked with Tom 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 bringing these difficult but compelling stories to the screen.”

Edited by Damian Leask, The Grave follows the painstaking investigations of the two leading policewomen on the case, whose search for relatives and possible DNA matches will help to identify the bodies in the Grave. It lays bare the harrowing reality of the war crimes committed against Ukrainian civilians told with the courage and resilience of those who are left behind.

Allie Wharf, Producer/Director of The Grave, said: “This war is unlike many others that I’ve covered. In many cities away from the front line the Ukrainians are trying to live ’normal’ lives, to rebuild as things are destroyed but the terror and sadness and grief and anger and despair are just below the surface. Witnessing the bravery and professionalism of my young colleagues in Ukraine has been an outstanding experience in my filmmaking career and to hear from them, that the act of filmmaking, working, and reporting their country’s suffering has saved them from despair is a testament to the power of that undertaking.”

You can view the trailer for The Grave here

Michael Burns

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