2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: GENESIS 2.0

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Evgenia Arbugaeva

Christian Frei and Maxim Arbugaev unearth efforts to resurrect the wooly mammoth.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

Two sets of sojourners passionately pursue the remains of the storied, long-extinct woolly mammoth: a small population of scavengers in the Siberian Islands who unearth mammoth tusks (prized in the Chinese art market) from the harsh landscape, and a loosely-knit international community of scientists who now seek to revive the mammoth through cutting-edge synthetic-biology technologies.

While the two groups in Christian Frei’s GENESIS 2.0 are united in their reverence for the mammoth, a subtle disquiet undergirds all their activities: both the disturbance of mammoth remains (a longstanding cultural taboo), and the engineering of life forms through cloning, genome sequencing, and the like, making humans potentially the co-authors of natural life and opening a Pandora’s box of ethical considerations. The hulking figure of the mammoth is the thematic phantom haunting Frei’s gripping documentary – and its dramatic fulcrum. The unprecedented, on-camera excavation of a largely intact mammoth is a rare privilege for viewers, and it’s also an alarming harbinger of a bold future visited by fearsome and long-untouched secrets of the past.

Some Background:

  • Christian Frei
    Past Sundance docs:

    SPACE TOURISTS (2010, World Cinema Documentary Directing Award)

    Frei was nominated for an Academy Award for his doc feature, WAR PHOTOGRAPHER.


  • Maxim Arbugaev

    This is the Moscow-based Siberian director and cinematographer’s first film at Sundance. His previous short doc, THE HUNTERS, which screened at Visions du Réel, also explored the work of mammoth hunters.


  • Martin Pieper
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975 (2011, commissioning editor)
    BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (2011, executive producer)
    COMRADES IN DREAMS (2007, commissioning editor)

    Pieper is ARTE/ZDF’s commissioning editor for culture and science programs.

  • Urs Augstburger

    Augstburger is head of co-productions for Switzerland’s SRF/SRG and an accomplished novelist. This is his first Sundance credit.


  • Thomas Bachmann

    This also marks Bachmann’s first project at Sundance.

Why You Should Watch:
Frei and Arbugaev deftly balance parallel tracks as they present an on-the-ground look at the thankless, dirty field work in remote Siberia and the market for the hunters’ discoveries, while also exploring the expansive, thought-provoking, yet ethically-disturbing promise of cutting edge genetic engineering to reverse thousands-year-long extinction.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

Leave a comment

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.