Whenever directors watch their own films, they always do so with the knowledge that there are moments that occurred during their production — whether that’s in the financing and development or shooting or post — that required incredible ingenuity, skill, planning or just plain luck, but whose difficulty is invisible to most spectators. These are the moments directors are often the most proud of, and that pride comes with the knowledge that no one on the outside could ever properly appreciate what went into them.
So, we ask: “What hidden part of your film are you most privately proud of and why?”
The scenes in the film from Norilsk and Berezniki in Russia have particular resonance for us, for a number of reasons.
I was amazed that we got permission to film in Russia. All our research indicated that it’s never been harder to get a North American camera crew into the country since the Cold War. And we were pushing it even more by trying to get into underground mines in the Ural mountains and into the “closed city” of Norilsk. To film in the subterranean, psychedelic potash mines, the tunnels of which span over 3,000 kilometers, we needed an invitation from the mining company. Norilsk, 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, is a one company town of around 175,000 people. It has the largest colored metal mine (chances are your cellphone has palladium in it from Norilsk) and heavy metals smelting complex in the world, and is one of its most polluted cities. There is no road or rail access. Because of its strategic importance and gulag forced-labor history, even Russian citizens need special permission to go there. It took a long time to process the visas and I felt the odds were insurmountably against us, and that we were just going through the motions to say we had tried. Then one day they arrived. Incredible. — Nicholas de Pencier
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