The Babushkas of Chernobyl journeys into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone several decades after the world’s worst nuclear disaster in April 1986. The tightly regulated 1000 square mile Dead Zone remains one of the most radioactively contaminated places on Earth, complete with military border guards.
Surprisingly, a defiant, spirited group of elderly women scratches out an existence in this lethal landscape. The resilient babushkas are the last survivors of a small community who refused to leave their ancestral homes after the Chernobyl disaster.
The film follows the women for over a year, capturing their unusual lives in the Dead Zone, as well as other extraordinary scenes -- from radiation spikes just a few feet from the nuclear reactor, to a group of thrill-seekers called “Stalkers” who sneak into the Zone illegally to pursue post-apocalyptic video game-inspired fantasies.
Scientists in the area describe the extent of contamination in the Exclusion Zone and the continuing danger of radiation poisoning. Journalist Mary Mycio, author of Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl, studies the long-term impacts on humans, animals, and plants. A visit to the reactor itself shows a containment sarcophagus under construction, which will need to last longer than the pyramids in Egypt to prevent further radiation releases.
While the babushkas' spirit mirrors the determination of the Ukrainian nation – a country that continues to survive despite its ongoing conflict with Russia – it remains unlikely Chernobyl will be repopulated anytime in the foreseeable future.
The Babushkas of Chernobyl DVD
"This award-winning documentary captures a land that time forgot and the world has avoided."
“Stirring....A fascinating portrait of the exclusion zone, with its strange, eclectic cast of characters. At the center of it all are the babushkas themselves.”
— New York Times, Women In The World
“A haunting and provocative movie, powerful and poignant and, frankly, unforgettable. There are few more inhospitable or infamous places on Earth than Chernobyl.”
— Chicago Tribune
"A beautiful film...Captures the subtleties and uncertainties of Chernobyl and, moreover, the resilience of the human soul.”
— George Johnson, New York Times
“Delivers a haunting sociological study. The primary health concern is apparently thyroid cancer, with one of the women having had to get hers removed a few years after the nuclear incident.”
— The Hollywood Reporter
“Potent, immersive....incredible depth and access.”
— Indie Wire