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by Karen Pecota

The renowned German filmmaker Lothar Herzog uses the backdrop of the catastrophe of Chernobyl to debut his first feature narrative in 1986. Herzog chooses to develop a storyline about a young girl Elena, who was ten-years-old when the catastrophe of Chernobyl took place in 1986. Elena is now a University student and returns home (Chernobyl) to take care of family business.

Herzog explains the importance of his film, "It is set in a place and country that is still pretty much unknown internationally." He continues, "It's now more than thirty years after the accident but the impact of the catastrophe is still there. It's visible. It's invisible." He adds, "The film shows what happens with a world after people have left it uninhabitable. And, what happens in people's minds after a destruction of the size of Chernobyl has occurred, even generations afterwards."

Herzog concludes, "I hope for the audience to be drawn into the intensity of Elena's feelings, and her fight for her own independence and her journey to freedom and happiness."


Elena (Daria Mureeva) is a student in Minsk, Belarus. She returns home on a school break to try to make sense of a difficult relationship with her hometown boyfriend. Her home is a part of the country near the catastrophe of Chernobyl that is still largely contaminated. Before Chernobyl events took place, her father was a liquidator and made an honest living. After the catastrophe he succumbed to work for illegal businesses in the "forbidden zone" of Chernobyl and got caught.

Her father goes to prison but still has debts to pay. Elena is forced to take on her father's job that is dangerous, scary, and daunting. She must persevere and figure out a way to survive the dangers. Oddly, Elena is drawn to the lush, green beauty of the "forbidden zone" that is still heavily contaminated. The weight of what is at stake for her future and the dangers that surround her every move terrify Elena. The environment she enters of beauty, fear, emptiness, and contamination parallels her inner world. Elena must confront both the physical and the emotional barriers of her past to make room for her own independence and freedom.