Price: $310.00

    Code: 2299

    Directed by Astrid Bussink
    2008, 72 Minutes
    Purchase: $310 Classroom Rental: $125

    The recent history of Abkhazia - a breakaway republic in Georgia, like South Ossetia - is told through the story of a once-renowned scientific institute struggling to survive after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It's a far different perspective on the Russia-Georgia crisis than what's being reported on CNN.

    In 1927, The Sukhum Primate Centre was set up in Abkhazia, a beautiful subtropical Soviet republic. It was the first institute of its kind anywhere in the world and it quickly became known for its pioneering research into diseases like cancer, polio, encephalitis, and hepatitis. During its glory days, it received visits from royalty, world leaders, and cosmonauts. American institutes built their own primate laboratories based on the Sukhum model.

    But after the collapse of the USSR, and the subsequent civil war with Georgia in the early 90s, the institute fell into disarray. Its' staff of doctors and scientists fled to research facilities in Russia and the West, the buildings have decayed, and the colony of monkeys - once the pride of the institute - has largely fled into the mountains, where they probably have not survived the winters.

    The mainly elderly staff that remained are trying to rebuild the institute as best they can, urgently looking for financiers to restore the buildings; an international conference has been organized to mark the 80th anniversary, one that everyone is looking forward to.

    This conference forms the apotheosis of this captivating documentary by Astrid Bussink, director of The Angelmakers. With great love and meticulous precision, the film follows the desperate restoration attempts by the staff who regard the institute as a symbol of the decay in their country.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    * Official Selection, Rotterdam International Film Festival, 2008
    * Official Selection, Hotdocs International Film Festival, 2008
    * Official Selection, Thessaloniki International Film Festival, 2008
    * Official Selection, European International Film Festival, 2008


    “Highly Recommended. Using the ignominious demise of the primate center as a kind of microcosm of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the documentary provides a fascinating window into post-Soviet history…. The documentary is especially timely given the Georgian invasion of nearby South Ossetia in the fall of 2008. Both Ossetia and Abkhazia had fought wars against Georgia in the early 1990s and both turned to Russia for help. Most Ossetians and Abkhazians do not view Georgia as a haven of democracy and freedom, as so often depicted in the Western press, but as an invader and unwelcome colonizer. If nothing else, American students would benefit immensely from this Abkhazian perspective. I can think of few better ways to tell the complex and tragic history of the collapse of the Soviet Union and its consequences than through this documentary. Courses in science, technology, and society studies programs will also benefit from this documentary.” - Educational Media Reviews Online

    [Three Stars] “A touching reminder of the impact that even ‘small’ conflicts can have on human beings—as well other species—this is recommended.” - Video Librarian