Chornobyl. Chronicles of the Hard Weeks / Chornobyl. Chronika vazkkyh tyzhniv
Viktor Kripchenko, Volodymyr Taranenko, Volodymyr Shevchenko, Volodymyr Kukorenchuk, Ihor Pysanko, Anatolii Khymych
Ukrainian SSR, Ukrkinokhronika
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 the evacuation of dwellers from contaminated areas, among others. The 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 the representation of the tragedy.
On April 28, 1986 reactor #4 of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in the UkrSSR. From a cinematic perspective, “Chornobyl” became one of the most intense events and extensive chapters in Ukrainian film history. The accident provoked an unprecedented outburst of documentary film production in the republic. Between 1986 and 1998, three Ukrainian non-fiction film studios produced up to 40 documentary films on the topic
“Chronicles of the Hard Weeks” is one of the first films made after the Chornobyl accident. The first film crew began shooting on the 14th of May 1986, 18 days after the accident. It was then that Mikhail Gorbachov reported, for the first time, on the explosion at the station.
Despite Perestroika’s slogans of “glasnost” and due to the state censorship, the film was not released until February 1987. The director Shevchenko died due to the complication of a radiation sickness shortly before the premiere. Soon after that “Chronicles of the Hard Weeks” was awarded at 9 film festivals and bought by distributors in 132 countries.