Funded! This project was successfully funded on October 11, 2012.

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An unlikely story of spirit, defiance and beauty from the most contaminated place on Earth

Full steam ahead before the clock ticks out!  Help us reach our stretch goals. Click here for details.

What is the film about? 

“The Babushkas of Chernobyl” is a documentary about an extraordinary group of women who live in Chernobyl’s post-nuclear disaster “Zone of Alienation” or “Dead Zone.” For more than 25 years they have survived – and even, oddly – thrived, on some of the most contaminated land on earth. Are they sick? Are they crazy? How do they protect themselves against the wild animals that have returned to prowl the forests around Chernobyl? Do they weigh the relative risks of isolation and radiation – knowing that even now the crumbling cement cover over reactor #4 could collapse at any time? How have they maintained their fiery spirit having lived through the worst atrocities of the 20th century? Soon after we stumbled across this unlikely community while filming for the PBS series Globe Trekker in 2010, we began this project. Their existence in this dystopian environment speaks volumes about today’s (and tomorrow’s) complicated nuclear realities. 

Why it's so urgent to complete filming now: 

Time really is of the essence. We must capture their lives, and the bizarre realities of living in the Zone, on film before the aging babushkas, now in their 70s and 80s, are no longer with us. Radiation or not, they are nearing the end of their natural lifespans. With each season, many of them pass.

We’ve visited the Zone, and the women, several times to report, establish contacts, and of course, film. Read Holly's award-winning feature story for MORE magazine here: http://www.more.com/chernobyl-women-nuclear-holly-morris

Our production team, in Kyiv and the U.S., know how to manage the complicated bureaucracy and strict regulations that apply to working inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. We're planning a 10-day shoot on the ground inside the Zone, in areas outside the controlled area, and in Kyiv.

This Kickstarter campaign will enable us to complete principal photography this fall.  Funds raised beyond our initial goal will go to first phase post production: translation and transcription of footage, as well as archival sourcing & fees. These are all critical steps we could execute on location in Ukraine this fall.

Having the footage shot, translated and transcribed puts us in a strong position as we move to raise the next phase of funding for post-production. Armed with a rough cut, our plan is to determine distribution quickly– approaching national and international documentary film and TV buyers, festivals and broadcasters.  

We invite you to be a founding member of our production team, and  “kickstart” this project at a vital time in its genesis. You’ll be on the inside of a compelling documentary story, and we’ll keep you posted all along the way of our progress. We're so excited to launch this campaign, and share our passion - and this little-known story - with others. No matter what your level of backing, we're hugely grateful, and so pleased to have you on board.

Credit: Rena Effendi/INSTITUTE
Credit: Rena Effendi/INSTITUTE

What is Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is a new form of commerce and patronage. Every month, many thousands of people pledge millions of dollars to creative projects. Through this web site, you can give money that will help finance our project, “The Babushkas of Chernobyl,” in exchange for a variety of rewards, screen credits, our gargantuan gratitude - and the knowledge that you will be helping to preserve a unique living history via the lives of these special Ukrainian grandmothers.....

This Kickstarter campaign ends October 11. So it’s important to respond soon, and please send a link to anybody else in your circle who might be interested.  Thank you!

You've exceeded your original goal, now what? Can I still be a part of this?

An emphatic YES. We are thrilled and grateful to have reached our original goal which reflected a bare minimum budget to complete principal photography and interviews.  Achieving our stretch goal will allow us to go forward with translation & transcription of footage, as well as sourcing and licensing of archival materials. Any funds after that, we'd forge ahead into editing and post-production with less delay. This would be ideal.

New to Kickstarter? Here's how the process works. 

A person who supports a project is called a "backer." The process of giving money to the documentary is called a "pledge." In return for your pledge, we (the creators of the campaign) are able to offer "rewards," depending on the amount you pledge. 

Some context: What is Chernobyl?

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster is considered the worst nuclear accident in history. (Time will tell if it’s rivaled by the recent Fukishima melt-down.) On April 26th, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Reactor #4 exploded and for 11 days spewed a highly radioactive cloud into the atmosphere. The cloud spread over the immediate area, then drifted over huge swaths of the then Soviet Union and Western Europe. Soviet officials declared a highly contaminated 19-mile radius around the nuclear plant a “Zone of Alienation,” and evacuated over 100,000 inhabitants from this largely rural, forested area, including over 100 ancient villages where families had lived for centuries. Though officially no one was allowed to return, a small number of “self-settlers” insisted on doing so, often sneaking back under the barbed wire at night, returning to their ancestral lands and farm because of their attachment to ‘motherland.’   “Shoot me and dig the grave,” now 78-year-old Hanna Zavorotnya told the soldiers in 1986, “otherwise I’m going home.” The babushkas are the last survivors of this group. 

When will I be able to see the film?

Our target is to complete the documentary is Summer 2013. We’ll keep our backers updated every step of the way.

Are there other ways to get involved, help out & get in touch?  Yes.

Portraits in video courtesy of & copyright Rena Effendi/INSTITUTE. Landscape stills in video courtesy of & copyright Chris Friel. Video editing Kendrick Simmons. Thanks to Pilot Productions.

FAQ

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  • Pledge $5 or more
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    14 backers

    DIYAKUYU! Many thanks for helping to make this film; email updates & invitations to screenings coming your way....

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    21 backers

    THANK YOU! DIYAKUYU! Heartfelt thanks and a digital postcard featuring an on-location babushka; your name on our website Honor Roll; and our genuine gratitude, & commitment to keep you in the loop as we proceed.

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    64 backers

    DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of the completed documentary, an on-location postcard from Chernobyl; and a place on our Honor Roll of thanks at www.thebabushkasofchernobyl.com. Stay tuned.

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    99 backers

    DVD of the DOCUMENTARY Plus, the on-location digital postcard of a Chernobyl Babushka, & Honor Roll of thanks. We so appreciate your stepping up to be a part of this project.

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    8 backers

    EXCLUSIVE VIDEO FROM LOCATION Exclusive footage that will be shot on location in Ukraine this month. We will send you this password-protected media, fresh from the road. And previous rewards!

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    2 backers

    EXCLUSIVE VIDEO FROM LOCATION You will get an exclusive sneak peek at footage that will be shot on location in Ukraine this fall. And previous rewards!

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    36 backers

    CHERNOBYL MEMENTO A keychain with radiation symbol from the Chernobyl Canteen (a store that services Zone workers); plus DVD of the completed doc; on-location postcard & Honor Roll of thanks...

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    11 backers

    SOVIET GEIGER COUNTER-PEN A "pen dosimeter" just like those used in 1986. A DVD of the COMPLETED FILM; our genuine thanks, updates, the babushka image - all beamed from location in Ukraine.

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    49 backers

    MOONSHINE RECIPE (SAMOHONKA): Homemade moonshine is the original artisanal spirit. This reward gets you, direct from a baba, a family recipe for hand made Ukrainian moonshine, in both Cyryllic and English. Na Zdorovlya! PLUS, a DVD of the documentary signed by the filmmakers, and ALL rewards from previous levels.

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    24 backers

    YOUR NAME IN LIGHTS An on-screen “special thanks to….” credit at the end of the feature-length documentary; plus, ALL PREVIOUS REWARDS - keychain! Soviet pen-dosimeter! On-location post card! Moonshine recipe! - from previous levels.

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    24 backers Limited (1 left of 25)

    ORIGINAL ARTWORK A gorgeous, haunting limited edition “Road to Chernobyl” 8"x10" print signed by award-winning fine art photographer Chris Friel who was on our first shoot with us; PLUS ALL REWARDS from previous levels, and our vast appreciation for your being a part of this project.

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    8 backers

    MATRYOSHKA (Russian Nesting Doll) An authentic wooden nesting doll hand-painted on location - a process captured by our cameras - outside Kyiv; a copy of the completed documentary signed by the filmmakers, and ALL rewards from previous levels. Heartfelt thanks.

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    4 backers

    BE A BABUSHKA: A colorful, authentic cotton "Babushka" scarf from a tiny Ukrainian village that is a favorite babs shopping spot; a signed copy of Holly's book about women around the world, ADVENTURE DIVAS: Searching the Globe for a New Kind of Heroine; plus ALL REWARDS from previous levels - canteen keychain, secret moonshine recipe, film credit, matryoshka doll & signed DVD of the film....in short, the MOTHERLODE!!

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    1 backer

    PREMIER & DINNER W/FILMMAKERS In addition to 2 tix to LA/CHICAGO/NYC premier (or any other screenings) Holly and Anne will host you and a friend for an authentic Ukrainian dinner* with all the vodka and dumplings you can take* PLUS ALL REWARDS from previous levels, & a big high-five for stepping up to preserve this story. *New York, Los Angeles, Chicago locations only.

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    0 backers

    GROUP BACKER REWARD/EVENT Designed for groups that want to back this documentary, and be associated with this important story. Your organization will receive a producer credit on the film and one or both filmmakers will do a screening and Q & A event for your organization, anywhere in the U. S. We will provide dumplings for 100 people!

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    0 backers

    PRODUCER CREDIT On-screen Producer credit; Guest List for 2 to any event of your choice: film festival screening, special premiere nights, or private screening including all pre-or after-events, on our calendar anywhere in the U.S. AND/OR Private screening with one or both filmmakers and Q & A in NY, CHICAGO or LA (We will bring varenyky for 25!) Plus ALL rewards from previous levels.

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Funding period

- (30 days)