On the heels of the wildly successful Sky Atlantic/HBO dramatic series Chernobyl comes the powerful companion documentary The Real Chernobyl. The film introduces us to the real-life figures portrayed in the narrative series, and offers their haunting first-person accounts.
On April 26, 1986, an explosion rocked reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine. Mass amounts of damaging radioactive materials ballooned and swept across the region, leading to mass evacuations, a string of agonizing deaths, and incalculable health-related issues for well over 100,000 citizens. The event stands as the worst nuclear accident in history, and Mikhail Gorbachev credits the catastrophe for the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.
One of the film's main interview subjects is Sergei Parashin, the Deputy Director of the plant at the time of the explosion. In a sorrowful, matter-of-fact manner, he testifies to the sense of helplessness and chaos that characterized the days and weeks following this event. In his view, the defects and design flaws were known among physicists associated with the plant, but the personnel on duty that night were too ill informed to properly manage the situation.
Other witnesses from safety directors to truck drivers to ambulatory transport also weigh in with their recollections. They speak to the resolve of first responders as they braved threats both immediate and invisible. We're presented with the recollections of helicopter pilots who attempted to secure themselves as they flew into the eye of the radioactive clouds. We hear the survivors from that terrible day, and those who have lost loved ones from related illnesses in the decades since. The cameras roam through the area as it exists today, including an eerily deserted and disintegrated children's play area.
Through these interviews and wealth of archived footage, we are taken through each step of the crisis step by agonizing step. Interspersed throughout the documentary are clips from the hit series, which provides a sense of context for those who are otherwise unfamiliar with this dark period of history.
The Real Chernobyl is a thorough and deeply personal account of one of history's most horrific disasters.
Directed by: Stephanie DeGroote