Despite the dangers, Chernobyl’s Dead Zone has been the unlikely home of a group of defiant elderly women for more than 25 years.
While on location at Chernobyl working on a PBS series, filmmakers Holly Morris and Anne Bogart noticed smoke coming from a chimney in what is supposed to be an uninhabitable area. Investigating, they were surprised to discover a community of two hundred, mostly widows, who claim the land as their ancestral birthright, in spite of its toxicity. Living in the Dead Zone, these Ukrainian babushkas have been largely isolated since the fall of the Soviet Union. They share their stories of defiance and survival in a post-apocalyptic setting in Morris and Bogart’s film.
The filmmakers have two weeks left in their Kickstarter campaign for $27,000 to complete principal photography, and, at the time of this writing, have just over $4000 to go. Those interested in learning more about the project may also check out their website.
This project caught my attention by its title alone. One of the main appeals of the documentary form is its stranger than fiction aspect, and that’s certainly the case here. The idea of little Ukrainian grandmothers making moonshine and slaughtering pigs against the backdrop of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history sounds like the setting of an absurdist novel. Beyond this intriguing set up, there’s the promise of hearing first hand perspectives on not only life in a nuclear zone, but of the direct experience of Soviet history, from the oppression of Stalin, through WWII and the Cold War, to the fall of the USSR.