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A film exploring the effects of a nuclear catastrophe through environment and people. Third time to Chernobyl/Pripyat and now Fukushima

AN UPDATE: THIS PROJECT HAS BEEN EXPANDED. I WILL TRAVEL TO FUKUSHIMA AS WELL AS BACK TO CHERNOBYL/PRIPYAT A THIRD TIME

Photos from second trip to Chernobyl

http://startingpointphotography.shutterfly.com/chernobyl

THE FILM –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Pripyat continues to speak in its steady voice, decaying buildings emptied of people, time stamp images of a 1986 Soviet life, of its strange upside down world where a contaminated nature reclaims a city where wolves and bears roam at night. The vibrant city of 50,000 people is no more. What has happened to the people? How has their life been altered? And now 25 years later it is Fukushima’s turn. What lessons does Pripyat have for those living near Fukushima right now?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_ixgvMzls4 Click for UTube interview

In and around Chernobyl were 250 villages and settlements that were evacuted due to the accident - the Chernobyl Exclusion zone now encompasses more than 1,600 square miles of Northern Ukraine and Southern Belarus. Not used to “city life” becoming depressed there are those that resettled, came back to the Chernobyl area and to their “motherland”, the land in which they grew up on and worked, as their parents had and their parents parents. What does it mean to a villager to use terms like exclusion zone when to many of them the “outside” is the exclusion zone and their “inclusion zone” is a land now contaminated? And with Fukushima there are those who refuse to leave their homes even as similar ghost towns have been created as with Chernobyl. What is the overwhelming desire for home, for one’s land that can outweigh such a potent fear as living in a radioactive landscape?



A nuclear moment has consequences not just for those who are evacuated. There is inevitably the cleanup. In the case of Chernobyl, there were over 500,000 people involved with this. Most did not know what health risks they were taking. One driver to Chernobyl told me that the drivers to the clean up wanted to go as the government provided free vodka. What are the systems in place that tell half truths to the people, whether it be 25 years ago with young soldiers given the choice between a bloody war in Afganistan and or a battle with an enemy that they could not see, touch or feel, but nevertheless shortened many of their lives. And in Japan, why have Japanese officials raised the acceptable level of ratiation exposure for school children near Fukushima or explained away thousands of tons of radioactive water into a "vast ocean"?  

The nuclear age is still upon us and will be here for some years and perhaps decades to come. The potential for an accident with so many hundreds of functioning reactors, whether it to be human or mechanical failure, natural event, terror attack, or even something as benign as a power grid failure is perhaps more likely than not as the years stretch. Every reactor has to it the ability to spread it’s wings thousands of miles through the wind. Each of us has a nuclear question to be with.

This film will bring attention to those who have lived through or are living through the consequence of a nuclear accident. The few that I have already talked to do not want to be poster children of an anti-nuclear movement. They do not want to be used. These people have very human experiences in which to share. Their stories touch on the deeper issues of home. What is it to be told to move from a house that looks intact, to be told that the land itself will be soiled longer than you or your children will be alive, that you cannot rebuild, even when everything looks fine? What is the place in us of fear and panic when we think of an enemy that we cannot see, touch or feel, that might have effect our bodies five, ten, or twenty years into the future?

THE PROJECT –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

I have gone to Chernobyl and Pripyat twice, self funding both times. While in Kyiv I met with the head of the director of the Chernobyl museum and showed her a snippet of this film. She agreed to help me find people from Pripyat, as she said, “your film will come alive” through these people. I also began talks with the head of www.Pripyat.com an organization that has done much to keep current the community of those from Pripyat. It is understood that respect is absolutely essential, that agenda is not to be pushed, nor people to be used. This will be a film of inquiry and document.

I have also now been asked to come to Fukushima. I have been offered a guide to take me into the exclusion zone. Chernobyl and Fukushima are related and will be for generations to come. Fukushima and Chernobyl / Pripyat have much risks. Radiation does not fall evenly. There are hot spots to be aware of. In Pripyat it is essential that one has a guide who knows these areas. In Fukushima one needs a giger counter at all times. One needs to be alert and aware that radiation is a very real force.



This Kickstarter project will help fund a third trip to Pripyat and the Ukraine, to begin in earnest the process of interviews. It will help fund a trip to Japan and Fukushima, to travel into the exclusion zone and interview people who have stayed and those who have left.

Pripyat iself is expensive, easily over $500 per day to work there, where I plan on spending two more days of photographing and filming. While in the Ukraine I will dive deeper into the history of Pripyat through archival footage, film and sound…Ultimate usage of this material will involve costs. Your Kickstarter support will help fund the various expenses of travel - air and car - accomondation, permits, and the many other costs involved with a documentary film of this nature in areas of different language and cultures.

The funding will help to continue the project moving forward. So far I have used my own monies driven by the desire to address the issues of these nuclear moments. I saw a similar story unfolding in Fukushima as had occurred in Chernobyl 25 years earlier. Information was slow coming out. Exlusion zones began to form and widen as the days progressed. People were not specifically told that their homes, their towns and their land would now be dead for as long as they and their children’s children would be alive. A little information here, a little information there, but the people were not given the full spectrum of what was happening, and with this the repeat of what had happened at Chernobyl two decades and a half earlier. 



This film will serve if it can evoke the larger questions of home and environment. It is what we model with the human experience living in a world  of close to 7 billion people hungry for energy. We now are being forced to deal with the consequences of this hunger. What is the deal we make with the larger home in which we live, not only for ourselves, but for the next generation and those that follow? Nuclear is one example of the edge we play. Chernobyl and Fukushima are beacons to remind us of the delicate balance in which we find ourselves. Both are museums now to humanity. My desire is that people be reminded and form their own answers to the deeper question of our place in nature and nature’s place with us through this film, Voices of Pripyat.

Thank you,

Ray Madrigal

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