Independent TV releases The Body in the Woods on 1 March, a new feature-length documentary from International Correspondent Bel Trew, which delves into Ukraine’s unprecedented search for its missing and dead in the middle of Europe’s bloodiest war in generations.
It comes as the world marks one year since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. The 40-minute documentary, from the new TV and documentary team at The Independent, opens with the discovery of a body of a young man found bound, shot and burned beside an abandoned Russian camp in the woods outside Kyiv.
The Body in the Woods will be released on 1 March. Viewers will be able to watch it online at the Independent TV hub (independent.tv), on The Independent’s new smart TV app, and on the Independent mobile app.
The Independent TV app is available globally on a number of smart TV (‘CTV’ – connected TV) platforms: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, and Sony smart TVs. In the coming weeks, LG, Samsung and Roku will be added.
The premiere of the documentary is due to be held at Kyiv railway station on 25 February and will be followed by charity screenings in London and New York.
As Bel attempts to find out who the young man was and what happened to him, she uncovers the nightmare world thousands of Ukrainian families face trying to find their murdered relatives. In the chaos of war, and amid the discovery of mass graves, bodies go missing and are mixed up, adding to the emotional and human tragedy of the conflict.
During her year-long project, Bel meets Ukrainians such as Vladislav, a teenager orphaned by the war, and Vadym, who was forced to watch his family perish as a Russian plane blew up the apartment building they lived in. Robbed of the chance to bury their loved ones, they, like countless others, are unable to properly mourn and move on.
All through this, Ukrainian authorities are trying to find the missing and document tens of thousands of potential war crimes – in the middle of active conflict. Police officers who until recently were dealing with traffic offences are now on the frontlines of war crime evidence gathering, retrieving bodies from bombed-out and mined villages. Regional morgues are so overwhelmed by mass graves, they are forced to store the dead in railway carriages, refrigerated trucks and shipping containers.
Thousands – if not tens of thousands – of bodies remain unidentified. Even when the guns go silent, this will be the open wound for Ukraine.
Bel has reported extensively from Ukraine throughout the war for The Independent and Independent TV’s On the Ground series, telling stories from the front line and the desperate road out of Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.
Geordie Greig, Editor in Chief of The Independent, says:
“Bel Trew’s documentary shows the agony and sorrows of conflict in a memorable and moving quest with this eye-witness film of fearless reporting that uncovers the senseless underbelly of war: the simple quest by ordinary Ukrainians to find loved ones is an agonising journey with twists and turns that shock and move. This intimate film on the front line in Ukraine is an eviscerating and courageous expose of the agony of war in Europe’s backyard.”
Bel Trew, International Correspondent, on the release of The Body in the Woods:
“One of the cruellest legacies of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the desperate search by Ukrainian families to locate their missing and dead. Many may never be found. Making this documentary for Independent TV has been a harrowing but crucial journey to tell and so preserve those stories.”
Yuriy Belousov, Ukraine’s top war crimes prosecutor, on the release of The Body in the Woods:
“Taking into account the scale of the war crimes – it is really huge. The war is unprecedented itself in terms of the types of weapons being used. It is unique that the search for the missing and the investigation of war crimes is happening during active conflict. in other countries they have started the search once the fighting has stopped.
We have found almost 10,000 unidentified bodies since the invasion started but around 75 percent of that number were identified. We have more than 2,000- 2,500 who still need to be identified, half of them are civilians.”
But we don’t really know how many unidentified people are in occupied territories. It is a number that will be much much bigger – that is the problem, as we don’t have access yet.”
Christian Broughton, Managing Director of The Independent, says:
“The launch of the Independent TV app for smart TVs brings Britain’s biggest quality news brand right into people’s living rooms. It is a thrilling moment. I was here as editor in 2016 when we unlocked huge potential by moving from print to focus purely on digital publishing, and this leap into documentary, entertainment and lifestyle programming feels like a revolutionary moment of equal or even greater transformation.
“We now live in a world where moving images on screens of all sizes – from smartphone to smart TV – are the primary means of media consumption for so many. And no one has embraced this opportunity in the past year more than Bel Trew. The true spirit of The Independent is here to see in this documentary, reinvented and regenerated for a new media era.”