Terra / Земля

2018 | Documentary | 29 min. | Russia

Production at Russia’s enormous Bovanenkovo natural gas field began in 2012. Bovanenkovo is located on the Yamal Peninsula, a remote area of Siberia where temperatures in winter sink below minus 50. But gas production facilities obstruct the historical migration routes of the Nenets people, indigenous reindeer herders, who have to pass through sprawling industrial zones to reach their summer pastures. The intrusion of modernity means the nomadic herders are facing a stark choice: to try and save their unique lifestyle or assimilate with the new reality. Squeezed between the past and the future, this is a story about a people bound to the land and their struggle to endure.

Directors Statement

In summer of 2016 I accidentally ended up on the Yamal Peninsula. I went there as an assistant photographer and videographer. Initially, we had to stay there for only two weeks, but eventually plans of our expedition changed, and we roamed with the Nenets for two months. For us the biggest challenge was to become a part of this small community. During the year, many journalists and photographers come to reindeer herders to capture their lives. But most of the observations show reindeer herders as savages. This attitude offends Nenets, so they are becoming increasingly closed in dealing with strangers. It was important for me to immerse myself in their life and culture, to look at their way of life from within and feeling this passion of constant roaming. We tried to be on an equal footing with the Nenets helping them on household matters in order to avoid the guest's role in their eyes, for which they need to take care all the time. During a long observation of Nenets life, it became clear to me that Nenets's internal conflict against the modern civilization is quite the burning issue. Nenets try to protect their culture and their way of life, but on the other hand they are not ready to detach themselves from the outside world. They want to go into it. Nenets have been trapped, not only between the two periods, but between two philosophies that tear their small community from the inside. And this happens not only with the Nenets culture, most of the native people worldwide are facing this issue too. Almost all the northern nomadic people are faced with a choice to be assimilated and move to settled life in cities or continue traditions of their nomadic ancestors. Such a resettlement of reindeer herders to settlements has already occurred. It has already happened with Inuit people in Canada. Intervention of civilization affected the loss of their unique culture and traditions.

Director: Kushnarenko Julia

Producers: Kushnarenko Julia and Maxim Arbugaev