#VIWFF2020 Blog 7: “Lost Reactor” Film Review

VIWFF2020 Blog 7: “Lost Reactor” Film Review

Written By: Hanna B.

Lost Reactor is a 77-minute documentary directed by Alexandra Westmeier, set in a beachside city in Russia. It follows the lives of individuals from different backgrounds and generations living near an incomplete nuclear power plant in Crimea. The site, now in Russia, was at the time of its pharaonic construction a jewel-to-be at the height of the technology and very costly.

After the Chernobyl disaster, and in the midst of the explosion of the Soviet Union, the project and its neighbouring enterprises were abruptly stopped, then cancelled. Millions of workers and inhabitants, hopeful that this complex would have made the area prosper, were suddenly left stranded with very little options. While most of them left the city to find jobs somewhere else, some decided to stay behind. And years later, even fewer lived in the deserted city, near the unfinished plant like the ghost of the past. However as humans left in drove, nature took back what was hers, and the building is now a habitat for various animals or birds, and herds of horses roam amongst growing vegetation in its surrounding.

The documentary focuses on three of the people living there: An older gentleman who used to work at the plant as a supervisor but decided to stay nearby in a boat-house of sort, overlooking the ocean. He often reminisces about the glory days with a friend, and former colleague engineer, who likewise remained in the area but is now near penniless without help from the government.

We spend time with another resident, a farmer who moved next to the abandoned nuclear facility with her family. She remembers how hard it was at the beginning, and still is now, but is perseverant as she tends to horses, chickens, pigs, and takes care of her son who has a one-of-a-kind opportunity to also play freely in this strange land.

We are then introduced to a quiet teenager with a fascination for the reactor. He understands that his situation, both personal and social-economical, is unfortunate at home and in this desolate landscape, but feels a special connection to the plant. It provides him an escape from life and is a source of inspiration for him and a friend.

Despite the specific conditions that ended in the complex being in ruin, Lost Reactor stayed away from political, ecological or other aspects associated with Russia or nuclear tragedies. That being said, one cannot help but think about Chernobyl — particularly so close after the eponymous, dread-inducing, poignant show retelling its doomed history — as the camera lingers on the tourist-ready-beaches or animals eating in the wild surrounding.

Lost Reactor is quite contemplative and wants to be poetic with a meditative approach. For one, the documentary might occasionally feel a bit empty like the abandoned reactor at its centre, but for another, it will be a satisfying and touching, mellow and mesmerizing viewing experience filled with warm sun-soaked shots.

In the end, Lost Reactor might not tell us much about this intriguing town, but is more about the connection to it. Some dwellers hope to stay forever in this new harmonious ecosystem, or that the forsaken project will miraculously be transformed, reborn, and others might dream of a better life away but will always have fond memories of the reactor to cherish.

Lost Reactor will be screening at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival on Friday, March 6th at 1:00pm at the Vancity Theatre. Tickets available here.

–Hanna B.

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