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Braving Chernobyl for Oscar-Shortlisted Post-Apocalyptic Short ‘Graffiti’ — Watch

In a behind-the-scenes video, director Lluis Quilez explains why he shot his short film at the nuclear site.

“Graffiti”

Participant

It sounds inconceivable that the first high quality footage to come out of the Chernobyl nuclear accident site was shot by a crew of Spaniards. But that’s exactly how “Graffiti,” Participant Media’s Oscar entry for live-action short, got made.

The notorious nuclear disaster occurred in the now-abandoned town of Pripyat, Ukraine, which was the perfect setting for the post-apocalyptic drama about a man who fills his days tagging walls with graffiti and discovers he might not be as alone as he thought. Empty pools, dilapidated ferris wheels, and hollowed out Brutalist buildings provide a stunning backdrop for the messages he exchanges with a companion he never sees.

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In a behind-the-scenes feature, Spanish director Lluis Quilez (“Out of the Dark”) explains how the intrepid crew surmounted understandable reservations to document the bleak and snowy town. “Pripyat was a reference when I created the story. It was a place I was fascinated by, I had seen photos. I found it had a special magic that was unique in the world,” said Quilez.

“The first impression when we learned we were going to shoot in Chernobyl was like, ‘wait, where are we going?'” said director of photography Isaac Vila. Armed with face masks and led by a local guide and radiation counters, the crew passed through a few areas that were over the recommended level of exposure.

READ MORE: Here’s Why ‘The Jungle Book’ Deserves More Oscar Respect

But the thrill of getting the shot outweighed Vila’s concerns. “The idea was to be the first ones to shoot there with a high-definition camera and anamorphic lenses,” Vila explains. “No one had done this before… You can find some videos online, but they use small cameras. We were the first to shoot there with such a camera.”

With an Oscar nomination in their sights, the risks just might pay off. Just last weekend, “Graffiti” won the José María Forqué award in Spain, adding to a growing list of awards, including Best Short from both the Woodstock Film Festival and the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

Watch the stunning behind-the-scenes feature:

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Comments

David

can you please explain the sentence “It sounds inconceivable that the first high quality footage to come out of the Chernobyl nuclear accident site was shot by a crew of Spaniards.”?

Paul

Sorry but this is simply not true that they were the first. Delphic’s video for “this momentary” was shot there (on HD) way back in 2009 by director Dave Ma. I’m pretty sure it has actually been shot many times before.

    EDGAR

    Graffiti is the first live action short film shooted in Chernobyl with anamorphic lenses and 4k HD cameras.

Nikolas Long

“Armed with face masks and led by a local guide and radiation counters, the crew passed through a few areas that were over the recommended level of exposure. But the thrill of getting the shot outweighed Vila’s concerns.” – This is absolutely reprehensible, no matter how informed the crew may have been.

Young filmmakers could see this going up for the Academy Award and think “oh it’s totally acceptable to put the health and safety of your cast and crew at risk if the shot is pretty! you may even win an Oscar!” This is the same attitude that leads to accidental deaths on set. The Oscars should take that into greater consideration than this [bleeped] up production of a short.

We’re talking about perpetuating and aggrandizing an attitude of risk taking where the health and safety of the production crew is considered 2nd to getting the shot. People have died on sets because of that attitude (Sarah Jones on Midnight Rider, just to name one), and this article puts that on a pedestal. Regardless of how safe or not Chernobyl may be, the article and the behind the scenes feature make a point of highlighting that they were in areas “over the recommended limit of exposure” — whether or not that’s exaggerated for marketing, who knows, but they make the claim nonetheless, and if the Oscars recognize them then they also legitimize that sort of abhorrent mindset.

IndieWire should realize the terrible messaging this sends as well, but this story is too click-baity for that sort of consideration. As someone who works in production, I can’t abide this sort of thinking.

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