It is still unclear exactly what happened to Mantas Kvedaravičius. The Lithuanian documentary filmmaker, who had already captured the fighting with pro-Russian units in “Mariupolis” in 2014, returned to the city in March of this year to also document the new war.

On April 2, 2022, he attempted to leave Mariupoli again. Initial reports said his car had been hit by a missile. A journalist friend of mine later corrected this: Kvedaravičius was captured and shot by Russian troops. His body was found and taken home.

The footage that Kvedaravičius shot in March has been preserved. His fiancée Hanna Bliobrova, who was with him in Mariupol, brought it home and edited a 100-minute film called “Mariupolis 2” with his editor Dounia Sichow, which has now been shown in Cannes for the first time.

It’s a very different film about the war than what we’re used to seeing on TV news. He moves mostly in a suburb of Mariupoli, in a street of simple houses, around a large brick church of Evangelical Baptists. Bombs have fallen on this street, most notably an air mine that has reduced dozens of houses to rubble. Only the church is relatively unscathed in the midst of the destruction, like the Cologne Cathedral at the end of the Second World War between the rubble of the city.

The big battles are on the horizon, maybe five, maybe ten kilometers away. You can see clouds of smoke and flaring fires and flaming projectiles from Russian Katyushas lighting up the sky. And there’s a permanent – in the cinema one would say – soundtrack of abrupt explosions, sharp whistles and eerie growls.

The sounds are sometimes closer and sometimes farther away, and the people around the church hardly react to them anymore; only when there is a particularly loud bang do they involuntarily duck down or put their hands to their ears. Only once do we briefly see Kvedaravičius standing in a doorway, smoking and recording the spooky background noise with a long microphone.

The people around the church are mostly old men and old women. They weren’t drafted as soldiers, they didn’t flee west. They are all homeless. They sleep in the basement of the church, where they receive basic supplies, and in the morning a priest thanks God for a peaceful night. One notes that perhaps the people who died in the collapsed theater did not pray enough.

Some gather wood, light a fire and cook vegetable soup in a large cauldron. Some separate the rubble, take out the wood, take out metals. Some are almost obsessively sweeping shards from the cobblestones around the church, small attempts to restore order that has been thrown into disarray on a gigantic scale.

There isn’t much talk. Kvedaravičius does not interview anyone. People tell each other their experiences of death and destruction. Once two men find a power generator in a destroyed house. They discuss: Can you take it with you or is it looting? You take him with you. One is standing in front of his house, which has disappeared into a bomb crater. He rummages through the rubble, pulls out two dead canaries. “I bred them,” he says, throwing them onto the rubble heap, seemingly without emotion. People’s emotions are also buried.

Mariupolis 2 is not a film in the sense of a carefully edited film. It is, one gets the impression, essentially the material collection of Mantas Kvedaravičius. Motifs repeat themselves, panning stops. Had he been able to finish his film, Kvedaravičius would probably have discarded much of this material and included other shots he still wanted to shoot.

We can all tell the difference between an edited film and an unedited film. Editing has the purpose of condensing statements, reinforcing them. “Mariupolis 2” draws its power from its raw state. Non-processing is proof of authenticity. The effect is not created by the editor, but by the passage of time, which we are exposed to without consolation in these images.