Monday, May 09, 2011

Life in the Dead Zone - new film about living in Chernobyl today

So the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster has passed. And, par for the course, the world`s attention is waning.

Having made the inevitable comparisons to the nuclear disaster in Fukishima, Japan a mere two months ago, the international media has moved on to sensationalise more recent disasters and debacles.

Fair enough. It`s their job, and just common practice.

So the less common practice of delving deeper and trying to make sense of the devastation that rained down on the unsuspecting populace, and to (perhaps) help humanity to learn from its mistakes, falls to
the likes of Ukrainian American Irene Zabytko.

The Florida-based author and film-maker is working on a documentary film about residents who return to their homes in Chernobyl (Chornobyl in Ukrainian), site of the devastating nuclear disaster that occured on April 26, 1986.

The film is based on her novel, The Sky Unwashed, which was released in 2000. The publisher is completely sold out but you can still get (autographed!) copies directly from Irene via the film's website. All proceeds of book sales go directly to funding the film, so it's a win-win for everyone everytime you buy a book.

The novel centers on residents of Chornobyl, mostly elderly women who, after the fallout from the disaster settled, returned home to resume their previously normal lives.

But Irene had never actually been to Chernobyl. After the book was released, she began to wonder how well her fictional characters reflected real life.

In her quest to find out she ended up working on this film. Despite taking the common health precautions, she has been risking her health by spending time in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone.

Yet to Irene, her personal health is not nearly as important as authenticating  her research and sharing the story of the real-life people on whom she based her novel... people who live in the "zone." Her research was dead on, but in finding that out, she found there was so much more that she wanted to share with the world. Hence her transition from author to film maker.

Irene and her crew have already released an award-winning film short called "Epiphany at Chornobyl" which used footage from her first shoot in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. (It's available for educational purposes free of charge.)

With the generous moral and financial support of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, Mary V. Beck Chornobyl Fund, Irene continues her dangerous but compelling work on the full-length documentary, Life in the Dead Zone, scheduled to be released in 2012.



Recently I had the privilege of speaking with Irene on Nash Holos. If you caught the May 1, 2011 Nash Holos Chernobyl Special you will have heard it. (If not the interview is archived for you here. During our chat we discussed the progress of her project, the health risks and what inspired her to start, and continue, the project.

I hope that you will consider supporting this outstanding project. Please visit the project's website and make a donation, however small. Every little bit helps.

And perhaps, despite what recently happened in Japan, there is a chance that this film will help humanity to one day make it common practice to learn the lessons of history.

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