The mining town of Norilsk sits in the heart of the Siberian Arctic, huddled behind its wind walls and bathed in the billowing smoke and sulphur of its mills and factories. Originally built by Gulag prisoners under Stalin.
A city of extremes, Norilsk is notorious for its freezing cold temperatures and its toxic pollution caused by the nickel refineries where a large part of the population go to work. This Russian-Siberian city wouldn’t be out of place in a dystopian sci-fi novel but it is also home to a very grim secret.
Still closed off to most of the world to this day, the city was originally built by prisoners of the Soviet Gulag in 1938 resulting in at least 250,000 deaths in the forced labour camps. Slave labour has long been outlawed, but throughout the city there are no historical sites or memorials that acknowledge its brutal beginnings. Canadian filmmaker François Jacob captures life in contemporary Norilsk with care and curiosity, giving a voice to the city and its residents.
Winner of the Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Awards at Hot Docs 2017.