This short and striking doc takes us into the dark heart of Semipalatinsk, a town in north-eastern Kazakhstan where the USSR regularly tested nuclear weapons, as seen in the blistering archive footage that opens the film. There are visits with shrieking Geiger counters to snowy craters and a trip to an awful museum where the pickled corpses of deformed babies sit in jars. But filmmaker Antony Butts isn’t out to offer a horror show or linger long in the past. He follows a pregnant woman, Bibigul – her face a hint of an inheritance of genetic corruption – who wants to give birth despite the vicious protestations of Toleukhan Nurmagambetov, a doctor who talks of babies as ‘monsters’ and wants to see genetic passports introduced to avoid babies being born disabled and carrying defective genes from one generation to the next. Even Nurmagambetov admits he sounds like Hitler as he tries to distinguish theories of ‘genocide’ from ‘medicine’. It’s a provocative, open work that prefers to introduce real, complex experience and inspire thought rather than offer wider scientific context or easy conclusions. Impressive and disturbing.
Friday May 13 2011