An irradiated Ukrainian artist uncovers a secret about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and must decide whether to risk his life as war and revolution break out around him.
This documentary is a thrilling, award winning investigation into the ghosts of the Soviet Union and the mind of an irradiated Ukrainian artist on a quest to discover the "criminal" behind the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Unforgettably eccentric artist Fedor Alexandrovich begins his quest by revealing to the world an enormous secret Soviet weapon that stands in the shadow of Chernobyl, and which Kremlinologists in the 1980s thought was a giant mind-control device.
But what Fedor discovers is much more sinister. While his theory that Chernobyl was an inside job may seem mad, the audience too starts to question reality when secret police appear and one of the crew members is shot by a sniper, as revolution, paranoia and terror engulf the crew. This Sundance Grand Jury winner and darling of critics worldwide pushes the boundaries of the documentary form while telling a crucial story about the deadly dance between Ukraine and Russia, and hinting at what Putin has in mind next.
In Gracia's documentary/conspiracy thriller, Alexandrovich returns to the ghost towns in the radioactive Exclusion Zone to try to find answers - and to decide whether to risk his life by revealing them, amid growing clouds of Ukraine's revolution and war. Screened at festivals throughout the world, where it won dozens of awards and accolades, this film like no other is now available online.
Complete interview transcripts with the officials behind this colossal Soviet weapon are available here.
Chad Gracia, Director / Producer / Editor
Chad has worked in New York theater for nearly 20 years as a producer, dramaturg, and playwright, with a focus on plays in verse. His works have seen productions in various cities in the United States and Europe. He co-wrote Gilgamesh, a drama based on the Sumerian epic, with Pulitzer-Prize winning author Yusef Komunyakaa, and has long collaborated with the American verse playwright Kirk Wood Bromley. The Russian Woodpecker is his first film.
Fedor Alexandrovich, Protagonist / Production Designer
Fedor was born into a well-known family that has provided Ukraine with artists and writers for several centuries. He currently teaches theater design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kiev, and has worked on more than 40 theater productions across Ukraine. In addition to the theater, he is a poet and a painter, with several books of verse and more than 50 exhibitions of his paintings in galleries and museums in Ukraine. He designed the “dream sequences” in the film.
Mike Lerner, Producer
Mike is an Oscar-nominated producer who has been making films since 1988 including AFGHAN STAR, HELL AND BACK AGAIN, PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER, SMASH & GRAB – THE STORY OF THE PINK PANTHERS, THE SQUARE, THE DO GOODERS, A WHOLE LOTT MORE.
He has won a number of industry awards including; Academy Award Nomination for Best Documentary Feature 2012, six Sundance Awards (Grand Jury, Special Jury, Best Director, Audience, Cinematography), EMMY Nomination for Best Documentary, 2 Grierson Awards for Best Documentary, The Alfred Dupont Award, and others.
RAM DEVINENI (Producer) is a filmmaker, publisher and founder of Rattapallax films, press and magazine based in New York City, Sao Paulo and New Delhi. He produced, edited and directed the feature documentary THE HUMAN TOWER, which was shot in India, Chile, and Spain. Recently, he received the 2014 Tribeca Film Institute New Media Fund from Ford Foundation for PRIYA’S SHAKTI — an augmented reality comic book.
His most recent film, The Karma Killings, was acquired by FilmBuff in 2016.
ARTEM RYZHYKOV (Cinematographer) was the winner of the International Documentary Association's "Best Cinematography - 2015" award for his work on The Russian Woodpecker. He graduated in 2010 from the Kiev University for Theatre, Film and Television, and was legendary Soviet cinematographer Vadim Vereshchak’s last student and studied for several years under Bogdan Verzhbitsky. As Director of Photography, Artem’s work has won multiple awards worldwide. His short film, “Hindrance,” was a semi-finalist in YouTube’s “Your Film Festival” and was presented at the Cannes “Short Film Corner” as a selection from Ukraine.