2015 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER

russian woodpeckerNext up in the World Cinema Documentary Competition is the sixth and final UK production: Chad Gracia’s THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER, a secret history of the Chernobyl disaster.

Sundance Program Description:

Young, eccentric Ukrainian artist Fedor Alexandrovich was just four years old when the Chernobyl disaster struck, but the event had a profound effect on him. In seeking to learn more about what happened at the nuclear plant, Fedor becomes fascinated with the Duga – a massive, Soviet-constructed radio antenna near the Chernobyl site that remains shrouded in mystery.

Fedor discovers the Duga was one of the USSR’s secret Cold War weapons built to penetrate Western communications systems and, possibly, minds. He arrives at a terrifying conclusion that not only explains the radio antenna’s role in the disaster but also lays bare the cruelty inflicted on Ukraine by its Russian neighbors. Fedor must decide if he will protect his family and himself, or tell the world what he believes. In the package of a paranoid thriller, THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER takes us to the front lines of the Revolution, and gives us the history and context for the war between Russia and the Ukraine, a battle that will have ramifications for the whole world.

Some Background:
Director/editor Chad Gracia makes his film debut with this project. His producers are Mike Lerner, a Sundance alum who directed/produced PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER (2013), produced HELL AND BACK AGAIN (2011), and executive produced THE SQUARE (2013) and AFGHAN STAR (2009); and Ram Devineni, whose most recent documentary, THE HUMAN TOWER, screened at Margaret Mead. Working with Gracia as editor is Sundance alum Alan Berliner (WIDE AWAKE (2006), INTIMATE STRANGER (1991), THE FAMILY ALBUM (1988)) and Devin Tanchum, who edited the Independent Lens doc A DREAM IN DOUBT, which debuted at Slamdance.

Why You Should Watch:
This truly unusual and very appealing project immediately pulls the audience into a labyrinth of Soviet-era secrets and conspiracies with global implications, making for a memorable viewing experience. In Alexandrovich, Gracia has found a perfect – and thoroughly entrancing – subject, who makes the viewer question whether he is a genius or madman at every turn.

More Info:
For more information, visit the film’s website, which also includes a mailing list sign-up. Check out Gracia’s Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2015 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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