Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes, directed and produced by Emmy-winning British director James Jones, presents recently discovered archive footage from 36 years ago, when a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded, precipitating what would become known as the worst nuclear accident in history.
The archive footage, which is accompanied by audio interviews with eyewitnesses, conveys the gravity and horrific consequences of the tragic accident as well as the extent to which the Soviet government attempted to downplay and even conceal the truth of the incident from the rest of the world and its own citizens, including the soldiers sent to clean up the damage.
1. Based on real incidents
The Chernobyl tragedy is the world’s largest nuclear disaster, killing tens of thousands through radiation exposure, the consequences of which are still being felt by those who were affected. An unintentional explosion occurred when the power regulating systems were turned off during a normal safety inspection in which the plant underwent a deliberate simulation of power failure.
Flaws in reactor design, as well as reactor operators organizing the core contrary to a provided checklist, caused a malfunction and the core to explode. Hundreds of first responders and bystanders died from radiation sickness in the first few hours and days, forcing the government to launch the world’s largest cleanup effort of its type.
2. The featured interviews
The interviews featured in the documentary include Ihor Pismenskiy, a helicopter pilot; Ihor Hodosov, a miner; Oleksandr Sirota, a ten-year-old schoolboy; Nikolai Tarakanov, a Russian general; Oleksiy Breus, a Chernobyl engineer; Lyudmila Ignatenko, whose husband was a first responder; Yuri Samoilenko, Deputy Chief Engineer of Chernobyl Power Plant and Ihor Yatskiv and Nikolai Kaplin, liquidators. Some of these people were also named supporting characters in the 2019 series, Chernobyl.
3. The aftermath
Millions of people’s lives were changed as a result of the Chernobyl catastrophe. Even though, as the HBO mini-series also covered, the official Soviet total is only 31, estimates indicate that more than 200,000 people died as a direct or indirect result of the catastrophe. The way the incident was handled by those in charge led to widespread mistrust among the populace and ultimately contributed to the fall of the USSR.
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes is streaming on HBO and will also be available for streaming on HBO Max.