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Saturday, 16 March 2019

Chornobyl [In]visible Vol. 1: Atomohrad (1974-1982)




Descriptions from Dovzhenko Centre website and the booklet accompanying the DVDs. “Chornobyl [IN]VISIBLE" is a project dedicated to the cinematographic representation of the disaster, an attempt to rethink and reinterpret knowledge about the accident and its portrayals accumulated over the past thirty years. Chornobyl is not only a humanitarian but also a representative lacuna. From a visual standpoint, the accident at Chornobyl event is in deficit, because radioactive radiation is not able to be seen by the human eye. In the absence of visual evidence of the explosion, a set of specific and constant images have become ubiquitous: chronicles of liquidation efforts, shelter construction, the destroyed fourth power unit, biological mutations and panoramas of dilapidated Pripiat. These documentary images without substantial expressivity simply cannot convey the global scale of the accident. Thus, realistic trends of representation of Chornobyl were replaced by an eclectic visual iconography - images usually borrowed from other collective traumas, varying art genres and domestic mythology. Films about Chornobyl studies are unique objects that combine art (cinema as a representative practice), policy (the collapse of the Soviet Union) and science (the anthropogenic aspect of the accident).

Vol. 1: Atomohrad****** CHORNOBYL NUCLEAR STATION / CHORNOBYLSKA ATOMNA 1974, UkrSSR, Ukrainian News and Documentary film studio, 11 min. Directed by Leonid Avtonomov https://ipfs.io/ipfs/QmXqow6tARCnrSio356UjLVgZ8qq8Xq9jPmAbNXf1sCiBL/vlcsnap-00001.png A documentary film about the construction of the first atomic power station in Ukraine – Chornobyl. The alternative title of the film “From the First Stake” references the first steps of the massive construction operation and the early stages of the public gaining knowledge about the nature of atomic energy. In the film, schoolchildren, public servants and inhabitants of villages of the Chornobyl region try to answer the question “What is the atom?” Their naïve and unsure answers illustrate the vague but decidedly trusting perception of the atomic phenomena. In Soviet cinema of the 1970s, the “production of drama” is popular, a genre in which factory or office routines are presented in a romantic light. The film uses all of these new aesthetic trends in a documentary approach. The ambitious construction plans of the power station are shown through a number of personal stories, one of them is about an engineer’s dream of a river port in the atomohrad, and river shuttles which will travel from Pripiat to Kyiv.

MORNING OF THE ATOMOHRAD / RANOK ATOMOHRADU 1974, UkrSSR, Ukrtelefilm studio, 30 min. Directed by Volodymyr Heorhiienko

Descriptions from Dovzhenko Centre website and the booklet accompanying the DVDs. “Chornobyl [IN]VISIBLE" is a project dedicated to the cinematographic representation of the disaster, an attempt to rethink and reinterpret knowledge about the accident and its portrayals accumulated over the past thirty years. Chornobyl is not only a humanitarian but also a representative lacuna. From a visual standpoint, the accident at Chornobyl event is in deficit, because radioactive radiation is not able to be seen by the human eye. In the absence of visual evidence of the explosion, a set of specific and constant images have become ubiquitous: chronicles of liquidation efforts, shelter construction, the destroyed fourth power unit, biological mutations and panoramas of dilapidated Pripiat. These documentary images without substantial expressivity simply cannot convey the global scale of the accident. Thus, realistic trends of representation of Chornobyl were replaced by an eclectic visual iconography - images usually borrowed from other collective traumas, varying art genres and domestic mythology. Films about Chornobyl studies are unique objects that combine art (cinema as a representative practice), policy (the collapse of the Soviet Union) and science (the anthropogenic aspect of the accident). Vol. 1: Atomohrad CHORNOBYL NUCLEAR STATION / CHORNOBYLSKA ATOMNA 1974, UkrSSR, Ukrainian News and Documentary film studio, 11 min. Directed by Leonid Avtonomov 

A documentary film about the construction of the first atomic power station in Ukraine – Chornobyl. The alternative title of the film “From the First Stake” references the first steps of the massive construction operation and the early stages of the public gaining knowledge about the nature of atomic energy. In the film, schoolchildren, public servants and inhabitants of villages of the Chornobyl region try to answer the question “What is the atom?” Their naïve and unsure answers illustrate the vague but decidedly trusting perception of the atomic phenomena. In Soviet cinema of the 1970s, the “production of drama” is popular, a genre in which factory or office routines are presented in a romantic light. The film uses all of these new aesthetic trends in a documentary approach. The ambitious construction plans of the power station are shown through a number of personal stories, one of them is about an engineer’s dream of a river port in the atomohrad, and river shuttles which will travel from Pripiat to Kyiv. MORNING OF THE ATOMOHRAD / RANOK ATOMOHRADU 1974, UkrSSR, Ukrtelefilm studio, 30 min. Directed by Volodymyr Heorhiienko 

A new city rises next to the Chornobyl power station – Pripiat. “Morning of the Atomohrad” depicts the daily routine of construction as a grand and clockwork process – the birth of a new world to the tune of symphonic music. The typical modern hero character, a “creative type” that sees his work as one of the most wonderful occupations, appears in this film for the first time in the image of the construction worker, Dima Bobrykyi. His working companions are the welders of the highest rank, two Korol couples. Happily posing in front of the camera, the couple confess that they receive “true pleasure” from their line of work. Despite the absence of a drop of sincerity or a crumb of social criticism, this film is interesting not only for its demonstration of the social realism canon of Soviet documentary film of the 1970s, but also for its scenes of the nuclear station in the progress of being built. The film’s soundtrack includes “The Lark” composed by Ariel Ramirez, which became widely known the same year due its becoming the theme song of the popular zoological television show “In the World of the Animals”. “The Lark” became a landmark musical theme for the Soviet era. LIGHT UP YOUR SUN / ZAPALY SVOE SONTSE 1976, UkrSSR, Ukrtelefilm studio, 20 min. Idea by Volodymyr Heorhiienko, Valentyn Borachek, V. Boiko, M. Kunitsyna

This film is about construction workers who are building a nuclear power station. Some of them have traded their prestigious engineer professions for worker ones, and as they embark on their new activities, they wonder about the possibilities of harnessing the atom. Director Volodymyr Heorhiienko and the collective “Ukrtelefilm” studio created a number of films about the construction of the Chornobyl NPS in the 1970s, including the first installment “Morning of the Atomohrad” (1974) and the follow-up films “Light Up Your Sun” (1976) and “Chain Reaction” (1978). The labour efforts of people were always in the focus of these ideologically-correct reportage films, the pathos of which was depicted by Heorhiienko with exceptional talent. In “Light Up Your Sun”, the romantic view of labor is presented in the example of members of the komsomol, who had arrived from a multitude of Soviet republics to build the Chornobyl NPS. To add a sense of greatness to their efforts, the film references the Soviet literary idol Pavka Korchagin, who “not far from these places built the narrow-gauge railway”. CHAIN REACTION / LANTSIUHOVA REAKTSIIA 1978, UkrSSR, Ukrtelefilm studio, 20 min. Idea by Volodymyr Heorhiienko, V. Boiko, V. Lukash, V. Shabalin, Zoia Storozhuk, N. Kapshuk

A film dedicated to the life of the “young atomohrad” Pripiat, directly after operations began at the Chornobyl station in December 1977. This work is a triumphant overview of the results of the journey from the beginning of the power station’s construction to its successful outcome. The builders and witnesses of the station’s creation reminisce on the years of construction, which became a “school of life” for those involved. Doctors talk about the excellent ecological state of the environment near the station, youths ski in the nearby snowy woods. The “big happy family of the atomohrad” celebrate the New Year. Even in winter, these scenes are depicted in bright, saturated colors, with gentle reminders of the invisible work of the Atom, illustrated with glittering diagrammes, sensors and monitors of the station, all details emphasizing the joyful existence within the Atomohrad. BELONGING / PRYCHETNIST 1982, UkrSSR, Ukrtelefilm studio, 28 min. Directed by Birys Kvashnov

It’s the 1st of September, a sunny and joyful day in Pripiat. Children are going to school and the builders, engineers and supervisors of yesterday are sharing their thoughts about the future of the city and the newly built power station. Mr. Kizima, head of construction at Chornobyl, speaks about the city planning process and Mr. Voloshko, head of the city executive committee, speaks about the creation of recreational areas for workers. The main architect, Mr. Oleshko, talks about the construction of the local swimming pool and the head doctor, Mr. Leonenko, gives an ironic overview of the problems of high birth rates in the Atomohrad. Set only a few years before the beginning of perestroika and the accident at Chornobyl station, the hypnotic optimism of managers of different ranks reinforces the uncritical assessment of the station’s function and with it, the soviet system itself. Despite this, “Belonging” is the most encompassing urban documentary film in regards to Pripiat builder’s perceptions of the Chornobyl station before the terrible disaster.

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