A Moon of Nickel and Ice is a Grim Visit in Russian Prison Camp

A moon of nickel and ice

A Moon of Nickel and Ice

In the icy Russian mining city of Norlisk, population 177,000, residents endure sub-zero temperatures and the weight of a dark history.

A Moon of Nickel and Ice: Once a Soviet labor camp in the 1930’s and 1940’s, tens of thousands of political prisoners died while extracting nickel ore from beneath the tundra.  In this visually striking and haunting documentary, A Moon of Nickel and Ice, local residents—including a wry theater director, patriotic miners, cynical students and a rebellious historian—confront both past and present.

A Moon of Nickel and Ice
Director Francois Jacob of Canada in Chicago with “A Moon of Nickel and Ice.” (photo by Connie Wilson)

A Moon of Nickel and Ice opens with a miner who spent 28 years underground before moving topside. We learn that Norilsk is a closed-off city, a prison city.   The first group of prisoners sent there all died. (“The eternal ice is their graveyard.  Under the frozen earth they can finally move on.”)

The place is just as cheerful as it sounds. It doesn’t help that there is a poster of Vladimir Putin on the wall that says, “I see you.  You are not working.”

Grim, grimmer, grimmest. In Russian, with subtitles.

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About Connie Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com ) was the Quad City Times film and book critic for 15 years and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970. She also publishes books (31 at last count) in a variety of genres (www.quadcitieslearning.com), has taught writing or literature classes at 6 Iowa/Illinois colleges or universities as adjunct faculty, was Yahoo's Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics, is the author of It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com.