Written by Dominic de Meester.
Norilsk, an industrialized city, miles away from nowhere – how apropos. Director François Jacob provides us with a bold film by giving a voice to the few and unheard. With heart, truth and courage, A Moon of Nickel and Ice attempts to communicate the stories of the inhabitants of Norilsk, informing the world of its history, environment, and current state of affairs.
Cinematographers Vuk Stojanovic, François Jacob, and Ilya Zima help paint the picture of Norilsk with beautiful and at times raw cinematography and footage, inaccessible to foreigners and rarely seen.
The documentary humbles its viewers with tails of sorrow, historical hardship, and real-life interpretations. Scenes like a Ukrainian veteran recounting his chilling tales with great difficulty and determination will leave you pondering.
The documentary illustrates how a city founded during a fascist era managed to survive through the years on the shoulders of prisoners sent to the Gulag during the 1930s – many of whom were intellectuals sent to be silenced.
Norilsk is surrounded by the countless Norilsk nickel mines. Here, wherever one looks, factory chimneys churn out sulphurous reminders of the dreadful past and brooding omens of a depressing future. The documentary provides a clear understanding of the difficulties the people of Norilsk are faced with.
To the dismay of some, the youth are vocal to point out the problems that lie ahead. Not wanting their dreams stifled, most youth seek to escape to greener pastures such as Saint Petersburg – leaving behind the corpses of abandoned buildings.
Despite these hardships, Jacob seeks to understand the full picture: how some of these inhabitants manage to stay and be loyal and generous to one another. Knowing that the city was founded on the tears and blood of others, the documentary shows us the difficulty in one’s choice is to stay. With nine months of winter and some of the most unbearable working conditions, you’ll be left wondering why.
Overall, this is your chance to experience Norilsk and its historical significance.
A Moon of Nickel and Ice will open tonight at Cinéma du Parc, in original Russian with English subtitles.