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The incredible story of how the staff at Ukraine’s Chernobyl power plant — site of the 1986 nuclear disaster — prevented another nuclear catastrophe from occurring after it was occupied by Russian troops in early 2022 has been turned into a feature documentary being launched at the European Film Market.
Chornobyl 2022 (which uses the Ukrainian spelling of the town) comes from Ukrainian director-producer Vitalii Dokalenko and his longtime Latvian producer collaborator Andrejs Ekis of Cinevilla Studio, and is being introduced to buyers in Berlin by Canoe Film.
The project — a co-production between Cinevilla and Ukraine’s UM Group — came about last year when Ekis and Dokalenko found a newspaper article about a supervisor at the plant who had begun his 15-hour night shift Feb. 23 only to find at dawn that the Russian Army had invaded Ukraine and columns of Russian armored vehicles were now approaching the Chernobyl exclusion zone. It would be 36 days before the staff at Chernobyl could return home, with them working to avert a nuclear disaster that reportedly had the potential to cause substantially greater destruction than the one more than 35 years earlier.
The documentary — which was conceived as a four-part series but is being delivered as a feature length film — includes interviews with several employers who were in the plant and three tourists who also became trapped, alongside surveillance camera footage from within the facility itself.
Taking place almost a full year following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 2023 Berlinale includes several Ukrainian films in its lineup, including the documentary In Ukraine from Piotr and Tomasz Walks. Meanwhile, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to attend in some capacity to support Sean Penn’s profile Superpower.
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