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‘As a humanitarian,’ Cary Joji Fukunaga is documenting the horrors of war in Ukraine

Man standing on stairs of a red carpet
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga, seen in 2021, is on the ground in Ukraine.
(Jeff Spicer / Getty Images )
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Filmmaker Cary Joji Fukunaga, best known for directing the James Bond movie “No Time to Die,” “Jane Eyre” and the TV show “True Detective,” is on the ground chronicling the war on Ukraine.

For the past month, the Japanese American director has posted stark photographs on his Instagram account to document the humanitarian relief efforts for displaced Ukrainians in the wake of Russia’s continued attacks.

Fukunaga, who has been in Ukraine since March 19, told The Times in an email from Kharkiv: “I’ve taken pictures, but I’m here as a humanitarian and not a documentarian.”

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Posted on March 24, his first photo from Ukraine showed three women sitting side by side at a shelter in Lviv and gave a glimpse of their plight.

“Valentina came to western Ukraine to celebrate the 35th anniversary of her marriage. Her children gave her and her husband a trip to the Carpathian Mountains, which she had long dreamed of visiting,” Fukunaga’s caption read.

“They spent a wonderful weekend there and were on their way back to the train station when they were told that war had broken out. Now her children and grandchildren have left Ukraine, but the men of the family cannot leave.”

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The same post featured the story of a woman named Oksana, who was “forced to flee Kharkiv, which has been under constant shelling since the first day of the war. She did not want to abandon her family and husband, but she had to do it to save her child,” the caption read.

Oksana told Fukunaga, “We were just raising our grandchildren. Now we are here. We didn’t ask for this. We did not ask to be ‘liberated’.”

Fukunaga’s posts have also documented some of the humanitarian relief efforts by renowned Spanish chef José Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen throughout Ukraine.

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Andrés was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2015 by former President Barack Obama for providing meals in war zones and during natural disasters.

One of Fukanaga’s posts on April 3 shows Andrés on the ground delivering “6000 kilos of groceries, 600 warm meals,” wrote Fukunaga.

Fukunaga’s latest post, from April 8, drew attention to a woman in uniform named Galyna, who used to run the Dnipro metro station that is now being utilized as a bomb shelter.

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“She hasn’t been home since the war began as there is still too much to do. The first days saw up to 2800 people crowding into the cold-war era shelter, replete with an underground cafe and pharmacy, and in case of a nuclear attack, 40cm thick iron blast doors that still shut at curfew,” Fukunaga wrote in the caption, adding that volunteers from World Central Kitchen deliver meals and fresh fruit to the station daily.

Fukunaga told The Times that his goal, apart from trying to keep people fed near the frontlines, is “working on a seed program for Ukrainian farms and looking at expanding to mid-size commercial farms.”

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He added: “We’ve been doing this in cooperation with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Ministry of Agriculture but with huge support from Alexander Kamyshin, the head of the Ukrainian rail system, who also used to be a farmer.”

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