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Chernobyl movie echoes Japan fears

MOSCOW (AFP) ― A new drama film set in Chernobyl opens in Russian cinemas this week, recalling the trauma of the world’s worst nuclear accident just ahead of the 25th anniversary of the catastrophe.

The Russian film’s release comes after the quake-damage to a nuclear power plant in Japan brought fears of a nuclear explosion on the scale of Chernobyl and suspicions of another Soviet-style cover-up by officials.

The film, “Innocent Saturday,” shows a junior party worker, Valera, learning of the explosion by chance and initially trying to escape from the town of Pripyat just outside the Chernobyl zone.

But he misses the last passenger train out of the town because his girlfriend cannot run fast enough and finds himself drawn into a drunken wedding party, where he plays drums for a rock band and downs bottles of wine.

His friends brush off warnings of the dangers with macabre jokes, even when they finally view the flaming power station, in scenes that recall the near anarchic atmosphere in the days after the April 26, 1986 explosion.

“You create an image or a metaphor born from your own life and then that metaphor returns to you in your life or world events,” director Alexander Mindadze said in an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency.

“What I was trying to talk about was not only relevant yesterday but is unfortunately relevant today.”

When reactor number four at the Chernobyl power plant blew up during a planned test in April 1986, it took several days for the Soviet authorities to officially admit the accident and evacuate residents in the fall-out zone.

“The archival subject matter of ‘Innocent Saturday’ unintentionally overlaps with the accident at the power plant in Japan, hit by the tsunami and quake,” Itogi magazine said in a review.

“There they are also saying everything is all right, so is this purely a Russian monstrosity?”

Mindadze told Kommersant daily that the hero’s gradual fatalistic decision to stay, despite knowing the radiation risks, mirrored his own experience, as he was filming in Belarus, whose border runs close to Chernobyl, at the time.

“The rumors were growing but we did not take them at all seriously. It was just another excuse to ‘deactivate’ with red wine,” Mindadze said, referring to a popular belief that red wine helps prevent radiation poisoning.
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