Explosive Past Called Chernobyl

On Tuesday, April 26, 2016, it will be exactly thirty years since the world experienced its first and so far most destructive nuclear disaster. Since then, the story of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant has become a byword for apocalyptic visions of the future with fatally failing modern technologies as well as a key argument for the opponents of nuclear power engineering. It is therefore no wonder that the power plant, with its past and present, has become the subject of several documentary films. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the event, you can watch these films at DAFilms.com for free!

“The Zone.” Such is the name of the remains of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and its surroundings. The melted sarcophagus of reactor four, which ignited in the early hours on April 26, 1986 and underwent a series of extensive explosions, is surrounded by abandoned buildings, villages and towns within the Zone. At the time of the nuclear disaster, over 100.000 people lived in these towns close to the border with Belorussia. However, the disaster did not affect only those people. Besides claiming many lives on the spot, the dangerous exposure to radioactive radiation also left its marks on the state of health of the inhabitants of nearby Belorussia and a part of Russia where the radioactive plume drifted. Until today, the degree of the damage done by the Chernobyl disaster remains uncertain. Generations of inhabitants of Eastern Europe may still suffer from considerable health consequences. At the same time, there is a group of Ukrainian residents who decided to return to the “ghost towns” despite the threat of radioactive radiation.

The film by British directors David Bickerstaff and Phil Grabsky HEAVY WATER: A FILM FOR CHERNOBYL uses an unusual tool to narrate the story; the poem “Heavy Water” written by award-winning British author Mario Petrucci in 2004. Petrucci, who is educated in physics besides literature, draws on this untraditional combination to create an interesting tension. He describes the reality of the place after the explosion by means of cold scientific terminology, while still being able to address deep values such as human dignity and compassion. The directors use the poem recited by actors while presenting archive material and contemporary footage of the once lively and unexceptional place.

While the British filmmakers make use of allegoric literary images, the French filmmaking duo Blandine Huk and Frederic Cousseau discuss the harsh, current reality of the Zone in their film A SUNDAY IN PRIPIAT. They introduce the city of Pripyat, which was the closest to the power plant, got built in the 1970s along with the construction of reactor one and became a home to most of the power plant stuff. The filmmakers return to the city exactly 20 years after the disaster with their cameras. What are the phantoms of the past that the city has retained despite a distance of twenty years? And who are the ghosts in this ghost town?

Remember the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster by streaming films about it in the week from April 25 to May 1 at DAFilms.com for free!


Photo: David Bickerstaff

Comments

Doc Alliance Members

Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.