The Russian Woodpecker
directed by Chad Gracia
***out of 4 stars
What’s it like to go into the aftermath of Ukraine’s Chernobyl disaster?
This hell-raising and bizarre documentary puts us there, baby. Making an impressively-provocative feature debut, writer and director Chad Gracia’s film deservedly won the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. He dives into the mystery of what went down that apocalyptic day, following the lead of one of the disaster’s survivors (artist Fedor Alexandrovich) as they search for answers, including possible connections to the Soviet Cold War and the over-the-horizon Duga radio antennas. Fedor makes for one bug-fuck and assertive moderator. Using animation and visceral camera work, the images and stylistic-rhythm keep us captivated, even as horrific answers are uncovered, answers that eventually put Fedro’s life in danger if he tells anyone. Never mind the over-abundance of information and conspiracy’s. Just sit back, and behold the chaos.