Sunday, 17 March 2019

Chornobyl [In]visible Vol. 2: Chronicles of the Catastrophe (1986)

Vol. 2: Chronicles of the Catastrophe / Hronika katastrofy CHORNOBYL. CHRONICLES OF THE HARD WEEKS / CHORNOBYL. KHRONIKA VAZHKYKH TYZHNIV 1986, UkrSSR, Ukrainian News and Documentary film studio, Impuls artistic union, 56 min. Directed and written by Volodymyr Shevchenko

One of the first films shot after the accident at the Chornobyl nuclear station. Shooting began on the 24th of May, 1986, the same day when Mikhail Gorbachov’s speech (which is included in the film) aired on the central TV channels of the USSR. This appearance was the first official remark of the general secretary on the subject, made more than two weeks after the event itself. In this work, the invisible nature of radiation is underlined, while its “voice” is the main expression. The shooting equipment suffered constant failures, evidenced by the tell-tale spots imprinted on the film roll. This movie captured how key decisions on the elimination of the consequences of the accident were made – the construction of the sarcophagus for “eternal burial”, the introduction of liquid nitrogen into the burning reactor and evacuation of dwellers from contaminated areas, among others. Shooting was conducted in various locations – from the offices of bureaucrats to meeting halls to “hot spots”. The director and cinematographer, against the warnings of nuclear scientists, filmed from the neighboring roof to the epicenter of events – the third energy block of the reactor. After the end of filming, the whole shooting group was diagnosed to have received doses of radiation several times the norm and a part of them were immediately hospitalized. The director of the film, Volodymyr Shevchenko died from excessive radiation in March of the next year. Despite the beginning of perestroika and a proclaimed “glasnost” policy, the film was not cleared for release until February of 1987. The film, created following the fresh marks of the catastrophe, became the beginning of the public coming to terms with the traumatic experience of the catastrophe, and formed the main approaches to representation of the tragedy.

CHORNOBYL. BREAKING BREAD / CHORNOBYL. KHLIB NA ROZLOMI 1986, UkrSSR, Ukrainian News and Documentary film studio, Impuls art union, 11 min. Directed by Oleksandr Kosinov

The film is dedicated to the participation of military personnel in the liquidation efforts at the Chornobyl power station. The bravery of these individuals is captured not only in scenes at the “frontline” at the station, but also in “behind the scenes” episodes, showing the efforts of those who helped by baking bread and providing sustenance for the liquidators. Numerous parallels to the Second World War (the road to Chornobyl/the frontline road, the liquidators/war heroes) are stressed by the leading song in the film by famous Soviet bard, Vladimir Vysotskiy. Bread in the film is not just food, but a symbol which expresses the theme of overripe wheat, referencing the situation when a farmer goes to war, leaving his land. The smiling military bakers, coming from all the different republics of the Soviet Union, realize the idea of a common goal with calm and confidence. Against the background of panic in society, these individuals are shown as the dependable link in the great chain of general mobilization that was carried out in response to the accident. The director of the film, Oleksandr Kosinov, at the time of shooting was already a famous and honored filmmaker of the USSR – his films had won awards at festivals in Armenia, Finland, Germany and Vietnam.

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