Life on the Atomic River. In Russian. 60 minutes. NTSC format, all regions. ISBN 1-58269-023-5 (one video DVD, 31-page PDF transcript by download). Director of photography: Slavomir Grunberg. Edited and produced by Slava Paperno. US Copyright Registration Number PA0001312090. $39.00.
Three atomic accidents and fifty years of nuclear waste dumping have turned the Techa River into toxic hell. Chelyabinsk-40, an atomic weapons factory, was a top secret installation, and both its accidents and the lethal effects on the local ecology were a closely guarded secret, even from the people most affected by it. Everyone noticed that the villagers were dying of cancer in their forties and that birth defects were rampant, but no one knew why. Now that the truth is out, how are these people coping? And what are the lessons to be learned?
We watch the filmmakers interview dozens of people in the villages: doctors, farmers, teachers, children, and local officials. So many questions, so little clarity... It is hard to come to grips with something so cruel and so grossly misrepresented and misunderstood.
We hear that the locals didn't know anything. Yet the officials claim that the population was warned. A teacher stands in the snow on the river bank and explains that the bridge is too far away, and it is faster and easier to simply walk across the frozen river. Then a local activist puts her radiation meter on the river ice and reports a level that is a hundred times higher than normal.