Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Film-maker went to radioactive city

A publicity still from The Door, which has been nominated for an Oscar

A film-maker nominated for an Oscar revealed how she braved the most radioactive place on earth to relive a true story.

Dublin writer and director Juanita Wilson led a team to Kiev and Pripyat, the city beside Chernobyl, to remake one man's experience of the disaster.

The Door has been nominated for Best Short Film (live action) in the prestigious awards ceremony.

Ms Wilson said the city was built for the families who worked on the nuclear plant but has lain completely empty since 1986.

"In the centre of the city is a playground that now lies abandoned, and, as soon as I saw the playground with its enormous ferris wheel on the internet, I knew it was the perfect symbol for the film and that we had to film there," she said.

"It is illegal to enter the zone without permission and you can only stay for a maximum of three hours, so we had to get permission from the Ukrainian government to go into the zone and the city. It's very eerie, haunted by the lives of those who don't live there anymore, many of whom haven't survived or are living with the terrible effects of the fall out.

"The only sign of life was the wolves howling nearby, which made the hairs on our neck stand up. And once you leave, you have to discard all the protective clothing and hope for the best."

The Door, which is produced by James Flynn and financed by the Irish Film Board, follows one man's haunting memory of the Chernobyl disaster.

Ms Wilson credits her cinematographer Tim Fleming - who shot Once - and leading actor Igor Sigiov, from Minsk in Belarussia, for being committed enough to the film to brave the possible health hazards and shoot in the region.

The young director, who studied fine art at the National College of Art and Design and journalism at the Dublin Institute of Technology before turning her hand to directing, is currently editing her first feature film with Nathan Nugent in Dublin, who also edited The Door.

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