Film takes unusual view of Chernobyl disaster

Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:03am EST
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By Mike Collett-White BERLIN (Reuters) - Neither disaster movie nor family tragedy, a new film about the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion looks instead at why some characters decided not to flee the area even when they knew they were in mortal danger.

"Innocent Saturday," in competition at the Berlin film festival, follows young party official Valery Kabysh as he learns of the extent of the disaster from Communist bosses who initially try and cover up what has happened.

He runs to the nearby town of Pripyat and tries to catch a train to safety with his girlfriend, but when that escape route closes he is quickly sucked back into everyday life of weddings, shopping, music and drink.

His former bandmates need a drummer and have a series of Saturday gigs booked, so Valery rejoins them as they set out to live life to the full, however short it may prove to be.

Only occasionally, as when a bridegroom remembers that he and his wife are expecting a child, does the invisible threat of radiation intrude on an outwardly idyllic day.

"What really fascinated me was the question as to why people who knew about the catastrophe did not escape the city," said Russian director Alexander Mindadze. "Perhaps because the danger was invisible?"

He added that although it happened 25 years ago, the Chernobyl disaster was still part of the psyche of people living in the former Soviet Union.

"It's true it's a sensitive topic, no doubt about it," he told reporters in Berlin on Monday after a press screening. "Chernobyl is with us in Russia and in all of us mentally, and will go hand in hand with our life and history."

Actor Anton Shagin, who played Valery, was just two at the time of the accident, but remembered how some classmates who had been close to the epicenter of the disaster would stand in a separate queue for food because of special dietary requirements.   Continued...

<p>Director Alexander Mindadze (2nd R) poses with cast members Svetlana Smirnova-Marcinkevich (R) Anton Shagin and Stanislav Rjadinsky (L) during a photocall to promote the movie 'V Subbotu' (Innocent Saturday) at the 61st Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 14, 2011. REUTERS/Christian Charisius</p>