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Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes directed by James Jones official trailer
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes directed by James Jones

HBO released the official trailer for Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes, the documentary that takes a deep-dive behind the 1986 disaster of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Directed by Emmy-winning filmmaker James Jones (Mosul), Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes debuts Wednesday, June 22 (9:00 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO.

Thirty-six years after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded in Soviet Ukraine, newly uncovered archival footage and recorded interviews with those who were present paint an emotional and gripping portrait of the extent and gravity of the disaster and the lengths to which the Soviet government went to cover up the incident, including the soldiers sent in to “liquidate” the damage. Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes is the full, unvarnished true story of what happened in one of the least understood tragedies of the twentieth century.

This powerful, and at times, graphic film tells the story of the disaster and its far-reaching ripple effects entirely through extraordinary, immersive footage, shot on site in the hours, days, weeks and months following the accident. Russian-speaking British filmmaker James Jones uncovered a wealth of never-before-seen footage from a range of sources, which reveal 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. Deeply personal witness testimony helps contextualize the tragedy by providing an overview of life in Chernobyl before the meltdown and its harrowing aftermath. 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.

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. As the Ukrainian people once more battle a powerful, autocratic state to their east, Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes highlights the true scope of this decades-old, cataclysmic event.

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; and Yuri Samoilenko, Deputy Chief Engineer of Chernobyl Power Plant.

Watch the official trailer for Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes.

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