One of the reasons I started this weekly blog was to challenge myself with the movies I watch. Sure, it allows me to see some great, popular films such as Forrest Gump or Star Wars, but my real motivation was to force myself to watch movies that I otherwise would look over. This was definitely the case with Chernobyl Heart, winner of the Best Documentary Short Subject category for the 2004 Academy Awards.
A quick warning, this documentary is tough to watch. It highlights the health issues that have come about after the infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986. Specifically, it highlights a health issue that is commonly referred to as the Chernobyl Heart. This issue is a disease that began occurring dramatically in children after the disaster, which causes two holes to develop in the heart. As children with this issue grow older, their damaged heart cannot support them, which eventually causes them to die at a very young age.
Now, I had known a decent amount about the Chernobyl incident before my viewing and I am always interested in the bizarre, the abandoned, and the downright craziness that its history has to offer. However, this film, as a good documentary should, gave me an entirely new perspective on the entire incident. Now, as I move forward, anytime I come across Chernobyl, instead of thinking about the dreaded Elephant’s Foot, I will think about the millions of people that were affected by a catastrophic disaster.
This highlights the importance that documentary films hold. As their name suggest, they document parts of our world so that they can be viewed for what they are, the truth. A good documentary does not choose sides, or tell the viewer what is right and what is wrong. A good documentary simply presents the facts for what they are. The film did not attack Ukraine, or the scientists working in the power plant that caused the disaster, or anything of that nature. It showed the negative affect that it all had and the efforts made by people to try to help. This was a movie I otherwise would have never sat down and watched, but I am extremely glad that I did.
This was Director Maryann DeLeo’s first and only Oscar win. Her other documentary works include High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell (1995) and White Horse (2008). Her most recent work involved producing the 2015 documentary, Daughters of Mother India