Aurora

Aurora (Аврора) is a 2006 Ukrainian drama that puts a human face on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The film is in both Russian and Ukrainian.

The film takes place in the 1980s and tells the story of adolescent Aurora (played by Анастасія Зюркалова), who lives in an orphanage in Pripyat, Ukraine (Прип’ять), and dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. But Pripyat, of course, is the town with the Chernobyl nuclear reactor (the parts of the film that took place in Pripyat were filmed in the Donetsk region of Ukraine). When the reactor melts down, Aurora is hit with a huge dose of radiation. She is sent to the United States to undergo treatment, and she meets there a famous but declining Russian ballet dancer, Nikolay Astakhov (played by the Russian Dmitriy Kharatyan, Дмитрий Харатьян). The two forge a surprising connection as Aurora tries to return him to his former glory. Yet as much as she helps him, there is little she can do for herself.

Besides the main plot, one review, from RusKino, noted that the film portrays an interesting sort of nostalgia for the Soviet period, particularly as it shows the contrast between the idealized, pure Soviet girl and the corrupted ballet dancer who has spent so much time in America.

The film was critically successful, but did not make much impact at the box office. Ukraine chose it as its entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, though there was some disagreement over whether it was “Ukrainian” enough, as much of it is filmed in Russian and one of the main actors (Kharatyan) is Russian. (Actually, American actor Eric Roberts, sibling of Julia Roberts, played another of the main male roles.) The director and the main actress, however, are both Ukrainian.

 

Director: Oksana Bayrak (Оксана Байрак)
Stars: Anastasiya Zyurkalova (Анастасія Зюркалова), Dmitriy Kharatyan (Дмитрий Харатьян), Eric Roberts, Anastasiya Meskova (Анастасия Меськова), Anastasiya Bunina (Анастасія Буніна), Stanislava Khomenko (Станіслава Хоменко), Balentin Pretorius (Валентин Преторіус)
Production company: Studio Bayrak
Box office take: $296,500

 

Official trailer:

 

Aurora

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.