Pripyat

Rated NR 100 minutes 1999

This quietly powerful documentary details the lives of the few remaining inhabitants of Pripyat, a once thriving town located five miles from Chernobyl. Shooting in stark black-and-white, Austrian director Nikolaus Geyrhalter's camera wanders the town's unnerving moonscape of empty apartment buildings, weed-choked soccer fields, and rings of barbed wire fences as it follows the lives of Pripyat's autonomous returnees. Though most fear that long-term exposure to nuclear fallout will affect their health, the largely elderly population wishes to remain in their homes, eking out scant existences. At one point, an environmental researcher bitterly recalls that the Soviet government sent more soldiers than scientists in the aftermath of the disaster. Later, an old man offers the crew some wild mushrooms. The Ministry of Disaster Relief warns that mushrooms are essentially radiation sponges, he sardonically notes, but eating a couple should be fine. A soldier guarding the chain-link fence around the disaster site -- the so-called Zone of Alienation -- notes the absurdity of the situation. Do you think that the barbed wire will stop the radiation from spreading? he broods. This bleak work gives the abstract menace of the world's worst nuclear disaster a human face. Pripyat was screened at the 1999 Toronto Film Festival.~ Jonathan Crow, All Movie Guide

Film Credits

Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter

Writer: Nikolaus Geyrhalter and Wolfgang Widerhofer

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