Has anyone seen Chernobyl Diaries? It came out last spring; we just watched the DVD last night. It wasn’t great — Zero character development — but it was entertaining; sort of a Ukrainian version of The Hills Have Eyes.
Basically, six teen/twenty-something tourists are visiting Kiev, and they decide to take an “extreme tourism” trip to the deserted city of Pripyat (Ukraine) where thousands of Chernobyl workers had lived until the 1986 nuclear explosion. Anyway, we’ve all seen enough sci-fi movies where radiation victims turn into monsters, and then somebody wanders into the wrong place at the wrong time, and…
The movie was condemned by a lot of international relief organizations for using one of the worst tragedies in recent history as fodder for a horror movie. Here and here are two examples.
One person said:
“Seeing teenagers taking a vacation at Chernobyl, as if they were going to Disney World, shocked me deeply. Anyone visiting Chernobyl should have the same respect as if they were visiting Auschwitz or the Khmer Rouge Museum in Cambodia…They are making a real horror situation into a joke! This is pure indifference to the reality of the tragedy.”
350,000 people had to evacuate Pripyat immediately when the Chernobyl reactor exploded. No time to pack any belongings or personal items — nothing. Leave NOW! The official death toll was 9,000; a lot of people think the real numbers are much much higher.
In the early scenes, before the action started, the movie did a good job of showing block after block of huge empty Soviet-style apartment buildings. Buildings, streets, parks, a non-functioning Ferris wheel — all deserted; frozen in time. The “tour” group also went inside some of the deserted apartments and saw people’s belongings strewn all around, lying exactly where they'd been left 26 years earlier.
For me, the movie actually did personify and humanize something that had been mostly just a news item. For decades we’ve been bombarded with news of one mass tragedy after another. Chernobyl was one of many. We read about it in the papers, we heard graphic descriptions on the evening news, and then soon afterward, the next Earth-shaking news story came along and pushed Chernobyl off the radar.
I’ve been really thinking about Chernobyl Diaries a lot since last night. Not because it was a great movie, but because the movie inspired me to look for articles describing the humanity, the devastation and heartbreak, that Chernobyl meant to hundreds of thousands of people. 350,000 refugees can never go home again, and a lot of them are still suffering from the radiation effects.
Labels: Chernobyl Diaries