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Remembrance Day of the Chernobyl disaster: what films, series and documentaries you should watch



Every year, on April 26th, International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day is celebrated. It happened on this same day in 1986, marking the worst nuclear disaster the planet has seen to date. The explosion lasted for days, emitting lethal radiation and airborne nuclear fallout across Europe. The incident caused more long-term damage than immediate radiation poisoning, resulting in severe illnesses, conditions, and defects in subsequently born fetuses for many years. The evacuated area is expected to remain radioactive for decades, even centuries.


The catastrophe is remembered today on its anniversary, and on this occasion, we can discuss cinematic representations over the years, including a 2015 documentary and the 2019 miniseries.


"The Babushkas of Chernobyl" is a documentary directed by Holly Morris and Anne Bogart, telling the story of a group of women who cultivate their roots and keep each other company in a transformed and resilient landscape, despite radiation and the looming threat of disease. They are called "the grandmothers of Chernobyl," and their story is told by the documentarians in an original and intense way because it's not the usual reportage on the disaster that we've heard before about the abandoned Chernobyl, almost erased from collective memory. This Chernobyl speaks. It doesn't remain silent in desolation and radioactive silence, and against all expectations, its voices are many: from the birds to the water; the flora, the fauna, and finally the voices of Hanna, Valentyna, and Maria: elderly women in their eighties, three heroines among the few still alive from a community of "re-inhabitants" of the damaged area who have the strength and power to live on with a sweet smile on their faces.




"Chernobyl" is a multi-award-winning miniseries by HBO, directed by Johan Renkc, which tells the story of the Chernobyl disaster in just five episodes and follows the stories of the heroes: men and women who sacrificed themselves, who contributed to mitigating the explosion's damage at the cost of their lives, trying to save Europe. The miniseries thus focuses on one of the most devastating nuclear incidents in history, and the accounts are based on the collection of testimonies from the inhabitants of Pryp"jat', collected by Nobel Prize winner Svjatlana Aleksievič.


There are many products that tell of those days, of the forbidden areas, of the explosion, and the serious consequences. Here are two more extra suggestions, with lower ratings than the first, with different perspectives and ways of telling the scenario of death created by the incident.


"Chernobyl 1986" is a 2021 Netflix film that tells the love story between a woman and a firefighter, who decides to retire to start a quieter life, but the Chernobyl disaster drastically changes the plans.


"Chernobyl - The final warning" is a 1991 film directed by Anthony Page, which tries to highlight the consequences of the incident, with scenes of the exteriors shot right on the real site. Jon Voight stars as an American doctor who, after the nuclear disaster, moves to the area near the power plant to help other doctors treat the population. The exteriors were filmed in real locations.


Written by Olga Raimondo


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