Running Time: 58 minutes
"POLIGON was born from perestroika. It contains the temperament of social upsurge, but this is not its main characteristic. Historicism and the time aspect are the chief elements. This documentary is the result of furious protest on the one hand and sober consideration on the other."
- International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam
"Produced in the final months of the USSR, POLIGON courageously reveals the history of Soviet nuclear testing and gives voice to its many victims. Oraz Rymzhanov mixes once-secret Soviet footage of atmospheric and underground testing with horrifying testimony from people living near the test site, climaxing with an interview with Andrei Sakharov just hours before his death."
- San Francisco Film Festival
- First Prize, Freiburg Film Festival, Germany
- Best Environmental Film, San Francisco International Film Festival
Official Selection, International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam
Before the Chernobyl nuclear disaster there was Semi-Palatinsk - a radioactive Soviet nuclear test site that contaminated thousands of nearby residents.
Poligon (which means "testing grounds" in Russian) is the first film to reveal the history of nuclear testing in the Soviet Union.
Previously secret footage of Soviet atomic tests and speeches by Soviet leaders are mixed with horrific testimony from residents living near the site. Finally, the film portrays the rise of an extraordinary protest movement in Kazakhstan, which forced the closure of the test site in 1991.
The film captures the dramatic changes in the former Soviet Union that led to greater openness and citizen challenges to the horrific extremes of the Soviet era, such as those at this Kazakhstan test site.
The famous Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov supported the film from its beginnings. The film ends with an interview of Sakharov on the last day of his life in which he said: "Mankind will always have an exam. An exam in the ability to survive."