Hot Docs 2016 Review: “City 40” (2016) ★★★★


You would never be as happy to have been born in a free and independent country the way you would feel after watching Samira Goetschel’s powerful documentary film “City 40”. It’s about one of the closed towns on Earth called Ozersk. It was founded back in 1945 on the shore of the Ortyash Lake, which is now known for being one of the most contaminated lakes on Earth due to the significant amount of plutonium and nuclear waste.

The film examines and brings up everything you need to know about the seemingly average Soviet-era city where people would have felt themselves, as one of the participants of the film compared, to be living in a zoo. Nadezhda Kutepova is a local activist who fights for the release of the city. She wants it to be open for the rest of the world and let people breath fresh air. However, it’s the air that none of us would like to go through our lungs, infect us with some strange disease that no doctor in the world could find a cure.

The story of the nuclear plant is the idea of it to have been built back in 1940s when during WWII the Soviet Union and the United States both launched top secret nuclear weapons programs. In 1944, the U.S. built the secret city of Richland, Washington around the Hanf, claimed in the film. It also adds that it was used to produce plutonium for the atomic bomb. A year later, with plans stolen from the Americans, the Soviet Union began construction of their own secret atomic city, the City 40.

This is what you will learn from the first 10 minutes of the film. But the rest of it is like if you were walking through the one of the most influenced part of the history that created a dangerous chain of reactions. The residents of Ozersk will reveal how they were called “Chocolate people” due to an enormous amounts of chocolate they had. How they would be afraid to talk about the city they live in, because they did not want to face the consequences of their unharmed action. More importantly, the film tells the importance of knowing about the nuclear plants that still brings great damage to people’s health, and how their life is shortened due to that.

As the film exposes the truth, it is Nadezhda Kutepova whom your respect will grow for each time when she shares her stories. She, as well as some residents of Ozersk, risk their lives to spread the word to the rest of the world of the human and environmental catastrophe that threatens not only their region, but outside of it as well.

In conclusion, it’s impossible to tell everything about “City 40” or write the juicy parts of the docufilm here. But I certainly can assure you one thing, you will want to watch it over and over again for the way it’s been narrated. It delivers a right amount of curiosity, builds up the story, and gradually increases by giving you enough information to be able to digest. It’s truly fascinating to know about the existence of a closed city where people have so-called luxurious life that can’t really be enjoyed long enough. But if they have no choice to choose, they have to deal with their reality. But as long as we have such documentary films, it will increase chances for the residents of Ozersk to have maybe not a prosperous, but at least a healthy life.

Screening Time:

Fri, May 6 6:30 PM Innis Town Hall

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