Nikolaus Geyrhalter

Austria 1999, 100 min.

The town of Pripyat is home of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. After the Chernobyl accident in 1986, a 30-kilometre restricted zone was set up, and 116,000 persons were evacuated to protect them from radiation. But the “Zone” is not completely empty. In this film, Nikolaus Geyrhalter attempts to portray the people still living or working in the contaminated area. They all have their own personal reasons for staying in the Zone.

Mr. and Mrs. Rudchenko were evacuated after the accident. But they are old and longed to return to the place they had lived all their life, and the authorities did not stop them. Seemingly ignorant of or indifferent to the hazards of radiation, they continue to live the way they have done for decades. They still eat mushrooms from the woods and their home-grown vegetables.

Others, like people working on the Chernobyl plant, are attracted to the Zone because it offers double pay and free lunch, even though this hardly seems to compensate for the risks they take, especially since they are never paid on a regular basis and therefore don’t have enough money to feed a family.

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