daily stream: meet the most extreme tourists on Earth

part of my Directed by Women series
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Today is Alien Day — LV-426 is the planet where the crew of the Nostromo sets down and picks up a nasty alien bug — and hence a perfect day for revisiting Alien or Aliens (the best of the series).

But you may have forgotten, or never even knew, that April 26th is also the anniversary of the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what was then the Soviet Union and is today independent Ukraine. On April 26th, 1986 — 37 years ago now — Reactor 4 at the facility exploded, exposing its nuclear core, sending radioactive dust across Europe, and rendering the immediate region uninhabitable.

Today, Chernobyl and nearby Pripyat, where many power-station workers lived and were evacuated from in a matter of hours, sit amidst an eerie apocalyptic landscape… one that draws both legal tourists in small, organized groups as well as illegal “stalkers” to inspect the quickly abandoned town. In the brisk (just under an hour) Stalking Chernobyl: Exploration After Apocalypse, activist and documentarian Iara Lee explores the motivations that drive people to visit such a damaged, haunted place. “Post-radiation-accident tourism is a new phenomenon for our civilization” is a statement you might never have expected anyone to utter. But amidst the dystopian dissonance here are resonances with our ongoing pandemic: the shocking downplaying and outright denials of the dangers of radiation with which the stalkers recklessly roam this irradiated desolation.

This is a riveting experience, and occasionally a horrific one: the 1986 photos of the radiation burns suffered by the firefighters who were the first responders to the disaster are difficult to look at. But the truest horror of this film — released in April 2020, just as the coronavirus was beginning its global sweep — is its highlighting of the human tendency to embrace a denial of indisputable reality.

(Oh, and the 2019 HBO/Sky drama miniseries Chernobyl is also worth your time.)

US: stream free on YouTube; rent/buy on Prime and Apple TV

UK: stream free on YouTube; also streaming on Prime; rent/buy on Prime and Apple TV

See Stalking Chernobyl at Letterboxd for more viewing options.

When you rent or purchase a film through my Prime and Apple links, I get a small affiliate fee that helps support my work. Please use them if you can! (Affiliate fees do not increase your cost.)

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