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HBO released today the trailer and images for Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes, a new documentary about the nuclear reactor disaster and its effects. Check them out.

Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes — Photo courtesy of HBO

On April 26, 1986, the No. 4 reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded in Soviet Ukraine — an accident considered the worst nuclear disaster in history.

Thirty-six years after that fateful day, the documentary Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes will debut in the US, exposing the full, unvarnished true story of what happened in one of the least understood tragedies of the twentieth century.

Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes — Photo courtesy of HBO

Directed and produced by Emmy® Awards-winning, Russian-speaking British filmmaker James Jones (Mosul), the film tells the story of the disaster and its far-reaching effects entirely through newly uncovered footage shot on site in the hours, days, weeks, and months after the accident. It also features recorded interviews with those who were present.

Powerful and at times graphic, Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes paints an emotional and gripping portrait of the extent and gravity of the disaster, as well as the lengths to which the Soviet government went to cover up the incident, including sending in soldiers to “liquidate” the damage.

Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes — Photo courtesy of HBO

Jones uncovered a wealth of never-before-seen footage from a range of sources, which reveals the chilling consequences of the explosion. As soldiers, pilots, and miners were called in to help contain the radiation at huge personal risk, the Soviet government continued to deny and distort the enormity of the situation.

Government propaganda films illustrate the Soviet Union’s pride in its nuclear program, and contemporaneous news reports show President Gorbachev’s delayed and misleading announcements to his countrymen. Contrast those with the deeply personal witness testimony in the film, which helps contextualize the tragedy by providing an overview of life in Chernobyl before the meltdown and in its harrowing aftermath.

Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes — Photo courtesy of HBO

The documentary features interviews with:

  • Ihor Hodosov, a miner
  • Ihor Pismenskiy, a helicopter pilot
  • Oleksandr Sirota, a ten-year-old schoolboy
  • Lyudmila Ignatenko, whose husband was a first responder
  • Nikolai Tarakanov, a Russian general
  • Oleksiy Breus, a Chernobyl engineer
  • Ihor Yatskiv and Nikolai Kaplin, liquidators
  • Yuri Samoilenko, Deputy Chief Engineer of Chernobyl Power Plant
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes — Photo courtesy of HBO

The events at Chernobyl transformed the lives of millions of people. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people died as a result of the accident, yet the official Soviet reckoning was just 31.

The mishandling of the disaster sparked distrust in the authorities, and ultimately contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union itself — while also eerily echoing the misinformation and distortion that remain today…

Presented by HBO Documentary Films, Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes premieres in the US on Wednesday, June 22, at 9 PM ET/PT, on HBO, with streaming available on HBO Max.

The film is a Sky Original documentary produced by Top Hat Productions in association with Sky Studios. It is executive produced by Darren Kemp.

(Until the documentary’s US debut, (re)watch the award-winning HBO miniseries Chernobyl, which dramatizes the events leading up to and in the aftermath of the disaster. For folks who haven’t seen it, this is an outstanding, not-to-be-missed historical drama.)

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Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes: HBO Releases Images, Trailer for New Documentary
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