STUDIO 9 Films has been commissioned by ITV1 and ITVX to produce a 66-minute documentary for the BAFTA-winning Exposure strand.
It 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.
The area had been subject to six months of brutal Russian occupation.
The documentary will be shown on 6 November, 10.45pm on ITV1.
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.
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 though the war and their Managing Editor, Serhii Prokopenko, was born and grew up in Izium.
Serhii Prokopenko recently won the Zabel Award from Human Rights First recognising their “vital role in defending truth and human rights in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”
The Grave was commissioned by Tom Giles, Controller of Current Affairs ITV.
Executive Producer of The Grave and Founder of Studio 9 Films, Fiona Lloyd-Davies 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.”
Vitaly Boroyi is one of the main characters, a tall, dignified man and the town’s gravedigger.
He realised early on in the conflict that the mounting number of dead, killed in many different ways, would need to be buried somewhere and that their relatives would be looking for them.
Halyna Zhykhareva lost her whole family including her great grand-daughters ages 9 and 6 when their apartment block was shelled early in the war.
Their bodies lay in the rubble for months before they could be recovered and given makeshift burials. It’s only now that she has been able to bury them with dignity.
Oleksandr Duvansky, 73, has been searching for his son Sasha, 40, for over a year.
He hopes that Sasha is still alive, maybe in captivity in Russia, but he hasn’t had a positive DNA match from the Grave and information from the Russian authorities is scarce.
Mykola Yarytenko, bombed out of his house, went to live with his mother and brother.
His brother, however, was taken by the Russians, tortured and died the day the Russians came for Mykola.
He was then held for over three weeks, tortured and brutalised. His brother didn’t live to accuse his murderers. Mykola hopes he may find his body and lay him to rest.
The Grave follows the painstaking investigations of the two leading police women on the case.
It shows their search for relatives and possible DNA matches which will help to identify the bodies in the Grave.
The chilling accounts from two members of the Ukrainian Secret Services about their successful war crime prosecution will also be heard in the film, and the previously secret footage of the capture will be shown.
The Grave 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.
“To hear from them, that the act of filmmaking, working, reporting their country’s suffering has saved them from despair is a testament to the power of that undertaking.”
Founded by award-winning filmmaker Fiona Lloyd-Davies, Studio 9 Films specialises in unscripted feature-length documentaries and current affairs programmes about war, conflict, and human rights.