Interview with Charles-Henry Frizon, executive producer of The Maks Levin Affair

With just a few days left before our Call for Entries comes to an end, we're continuing our series of interviews with our Grand Prix winners of last year! Today we put the spotlight on Charles-Henry Frizon, executive producer of The Maks Levin Affair that won the Grand Prix INFO 2023.


After leaving the Parisian press agency CAPA, Charles-Henry Frizon founded Bottoms Up in 2020 with his associate Elise Demars-Castillo. Their goal was to create an agency oriented towards creativity, art, cultural heritage and journalism. Bottoms up, which aims to be at once a production company, a creative studio and an editorial agency, works in a variety of fields.

From graphic design to print to audiovisual production, the company works with a wide-range of organisations such as Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, Together Against the Death Penalty, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, l'Institut National des Métiers d’Art. Together they produce content on a variety of topics, particularly on education, culture and social issues.


The Maks Levin Affair

Produced by Reporters without Borders and directed by Arnaud Froger et Robin Grassi, this short documentary film follows Reporters Without Borders' investigative unit as they attempt to trace back the events that led to the murder of Maks Levin. He was a Ukrainian journalist found dead in a forest north of Kiev, then occupied by Russian forces. The Maks Levin Affair resembles the true crime genre, it juggles between the investigation and the portrayal of the deceased.


Who was Maks Levin?

Maksym Ievhenovytch Levine, known as Maks Levin, was a Ukrainian photojournalist, documentary photographer and videographer. He was assassinated on March 13, 2022, just a few weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Evidence shows that he was allegedly killed by the Russian forces.

Maks Levin was working during the invasion as a fixer for the famous war photojournalist Patrick Chauvel. The role of the fixer, which is often little known but crucial, is to accompany and protect the foreign journalists on the field. They facilitate communication with local media as well as their access to dangerous zones, thus allowing the creation and diffusion of the information internationally.

How did the project come about?

At the Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Award for War Correspondents, of which Reporters Without Borders is a partner and Bottoms Up is supporting the production, the agency was approached to build a story around the murder of Maks Levin and to document the investigation initiated by Patrick Chauvel.

A short but meaningful film

The war had been going on for months, when the shooting began. Charles-Henry Frizon stresses the importance of "telling it like it is". The short length and simplicity of the film enable the audience to focus on the essential. Documentary filmmaker and editor Caroline Darroquy's clean editing plunges viewers right at the centre of the investigation, while the testimonies of Maks Levin's loved ones give the film its human dimension.

There are very few documentary films about the profession and especially on the journalists’ fieldwork. According to the producer, it could be due to “a certain prudishness, journalists prefer to tell other people's stories rather than their own.”

Maks Levin's murder demanded justice. But the film is also a tribute, not only to him, but to the entire profession.

The impact of the film

“As a European, the war in Ukraine is certainly the most important event in our history since the Second World War”. The real impact of the film, according to Charles-Henry Frizon, is to show, as Patrick Chauvel puts it, that "Just because you're alone in a forest with three other soldiers and you think you're anonymous because you shot a journalist without witnesses, doesn't mean we won't find you." Today, the investigation is still underway.

The film has been widely broadcast, notably on Arte and on the Ukrainian public channel, giving it greater visibility.

“The Deauville Green Awards, a very welcoming festival where nice people can meet”

When asked what he thought of the festival, Charles-Henry Frizon replies:

“I think it is a remarkable festival as it is very open: it welcomes NGOs, TV Channels, advertisers…, So in that regard it is quite rich! And there are many categories so there’s something for everyone.”

“What I liked most during the festival was to meet new people. It is a great opportunity to expand your professional network. Actually, the graphic designers from the agency Yotta, who worked on the 3D animation sequences for The Maks Levin Affair, I had met them during one of the festival’s editions!”

…and they took the big trophy home!

“We really like the film and we believed in the project because we thought it a story that needed to be told. The company had only been founded two years prior to our victory, which reinforces our belief in our projects and in what we do!”

The festival team was particularly moved by this movie. So, we look forward to the new productions Bottoms Up will be presenting this year!