Scavengers on a remote Arctic island spend the summer digging for prized mammoth tusks to sell to the Chinese market. Whole and partial skeletons of these long-extinct animals can be found in the melting permafrost. It’s not just the tusks that are valued: pioneering scientists want hair, blood or skin, so the creature’s genome can be sequenced and the beast cloned. The locals believe it’s unlucky to touch the remains, and this sense of wrongdoing permeates the film as it shifts to the biotech world, where dogs are cloned and an entire population’s genetic data is mapped. Siberian co-director Maxim Arbugaev worked with director Christian Frei (War Photographer, SFF 2002) to capture these two worlds, the boggy landscape and clinical laboratory, to chilling effect.
The woolly mammoth tusk is just the tip of the iceberg in this haunting excavation. – Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter
The overarching theme is humanity’s reckless courage – as such it’s a picture which finds its closest parallels in the films of Werner Herzog. – Wendy Ide, Screen International