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Pleistocene Park

An eccentric Russian scientist's quixotic quest to recreate a vanished ice age ecosystem and save the world from a catastrophic global warming feedback loop.

A printer-friendly version of this page 100 minutes
SDH Captioned>>

Directed by Luke Griswold-Tergis
Produced by Jed Riffe, Luke Griswold-Tergis
Editor, Co-Producer: Maureen Gosling
Cinematographer: Luke Griswold-Tergis
Writing Supervisor: Sharon Wood
Composer: Dan Cantrell
Co-Executive Producer: Gerald Herman
Animation: Alkanoids
A Mammoth Step Productions in association with Jed Riffe Films

"Compelling...[O]ne family living in the remote Arctic on a grand quest to save humanity from impending climate catastrophe." Anya Bernstein, Prof. Anthropology, Harvard University
[Note: Community screenings of PLEISTOCENE PARK can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]

Seeking no one's help and asking nobody's permission, Russian geophysicist Sergey Zimov and his son Nikita are gathering any large woolly beast they can get their hands on, and transporting them, by whatever low budget means they can contrive, to the most remote corner of Siberia. They call their project Pleistocene Park. The goal: restore the Ice Age "mammoth steppe" ecosystem and avoid a catastrophic feedback loop leading to runaway global warming. Sergey would know: fifteen years ago he published a paper in the journal Science showing that frozen arctic soils contain twice as much carbon as the earth's atmosphere. These soils are now starting to melt.

The clock is ticking. Impacts of climate change—hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves and floods—are being felt sooner than anticipated. Sergey and Nikita find alarming evidence that permafrost is reaching its tipping point now, rather than in thirty years as they predicted. On a global scale, progress addressing the root cause of climate change—anthropogenic carbon emissions—is as elusive as ever.

Can two Russian scientists stave off a worst case scenario of global environmental catastrophe and reshape humanity's relationship with the natural world?

Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2022     Copyright Date: 2022
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-84-4

"Exceptionally educational and practical, this is a gritty, epic, true tale of restoring the arctic grass via yaks and bison - impacting by potentially 5000-fold the annual global warming amount. This film makes you feel intensely present with the struggles, insights and progress of the Zimovs. The filmmaker could not possibly be closer to the action, personally shoveling grass in - and digested grass out. A welcome counterpoint to glitterati jetting to 'events' to slow down the 'inevitable' by some tiny token - here we see reversal and restoration, vision and action, with a uniquely prescient front-row seat."
George Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard and MIT, Co-author, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves

"Bravo! Wow, I love this film! It has folly, it has beauty, defeat, perseverance, despair, and success--like life."
Kevin White, Executive Director, Filmmakers Collaborative SF

"Beautifully filmed and conceived...Based on a long-term and personal engagement with the Zimov family, Luke Griswold-Tergis tells a compelling story, part science documentary, part tragicomedy of errors, of one family living in the remote Arctic on a grand quest to save humanity from impending climate catastrophe. Pleistocene Park will be an excellent addition to the classroom in environmental science, anthropology, and Russian and Eurasian Studies."
Anya Bernstein, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

"A brilliant film. Pleistocene Park offers self-deprecation, insight, and the challenge of what life in the northern Holarctic has been across some 20,000 years right up to now, and our frightening path forward. While the hardened Russian way of pursuing knowledge differs markedly from that in America, scientific discourse plays out with the similar goal to understand nature. Here, the common objective is to combat climate challenge. Pleistocene Park should be viewed by all. I will use it in my classrooms - both at the university and broader universe."
Joel Berger, University Chair in Wildlife Conservation, Colorado State University, Senior Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society

"Pleistocene Park is a complete and honest portrayal of the messy intersection between Arctic science and climate change solutions. The film is essential watching for anyone who wants to understand what the world's most famous ecosystem manipulation is and isn't. It contrasts the immense ambition of transforming the permafrost zone with the uncompromising stubbornness of one family and their bison."
Benjamin Abbott, Assistant Professor of Ecosystem Ecology, Brigham Young University

"A wild ride into a visionary world...A captivating and unfailingly entertaining take on an important and serious subject, bounded by a father-son relationship of reason versus obsession."
Jury Statement of Olomouc International Festival of Science Documentaries

"Pleistocene Park is a well presented story of very passionate people...Sergey started from a few buildings in 'the middle of nowhere' and, together with his son now, has created superb facilities with modern equipment and a solid logistic support system. A few generations of new researchers, now well known, started their careers at this station. The film shows all the challenges and obstacles which the Zimovs met on their way to make their dreams true. This film teaches young people and older adults, as well, that anything in this life can be accomplished if you have a strong will and desire to make our earth a better place to live."
Vladimir Romanovsky, Professor of Geophysics, University of Alaska-Fairbanks

"A very interesting documentary of the perseverance involved in pursuit of ecosystem reconstruction that could have potential global consequences. The idea that herbivore disturbance combined with trampling snow will maintain a steppe-like vegetation and stabilize permafrost is an intriguing and provocative hypothesis. Pleistocene Park will make viewers more aware of ongoing permafrost degradation and the possibility of substantial carbon release associated with that degradation which could compromise efforts to control the climate system through carbon management."
A. David McGuire, Principal Research Scientist, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska-Fairbanks

"Luke's film is incredible because its subject is incredible, and the film is utterly true to the subject - the saga of a family solving an infinity of small impossible problems in order to help solve one enormous impossible problem - the catastrophic melting of the arctic permafrost. The Zimovs embody science and engineering at its shaggy, gritty, indomitable, Russian best."
Stewart Brand, President, The Long Now Foundation

"A beautiful personal portrait of Sergey and Nikita Zimov in their Herculean endeavor to re-establish a far North-Eastern Siberian ecosystem which prevailed during the last ice ages. Key of this undertaking is a large density of herbivores, which, by trampling the snow allow the cold from the winter atmosphere to penetrate the ground. This helps to preserve the underlying permafrost soil from disastrous melting with potentially huge impacts on the global climate through release of greenhouse gases. With fantastic footage the film immerses the viewer into the beautiful Siberian Arctic environment and documents the painstaking logistical, technical and mental struggle to bring large animals, such as yaks, reindeer and even bison all the way from Russia and Europe to the remote park in the Arctic."
Martin Heimann, Emeritus Director, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

"This remarkable documentary is very much about how this tremendously ambitious idea collides with the messy, muddy, buggy reality of dredging up various bands of muskoxen, reindeer, wild horse, yak, moose and bison and delivering these animals to a small patch of land in one of the remotest corners of one of the most remote regions on Earth. This involves trucks, barges, crates, tractors, sledges, cranes - all of a rather dodgy nature - and unfathomable amounts of mud...The themes are serious, the warnings dire, the science sound - but the story of the Zimovs' dogged Quixotic pursuit to save the world via mass ecological intervention is also inspiring and oddly hopeful."
Eliezer Gurarie, Professor of Environmental Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

"Highly Recommended...The film illustrates what one scientist can do to save our planet. Many people look at the words, climate change, and global warming like abstractions...To better understand what Zimov is doing is to be steeped in the relationship of the natural world and our sustained impact on our planet...This is an important documentary that will impact mankind for centuries to come if we do not act now."
LaRoi Lawton, Bronx Community College CUNY, Educational Media Reviews Online

"Sergey and Nikita Zimov's indefatigable belief in their vision is hard to resist and viewers will likely cheer them on as the titular Pleistocene Park takes shape. Consider for science, environmental science, and Russian and European history classes."
Maggie Knapp, School Library Journal

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DVDs include public performance rights.

DVD Features
DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and scene selection.

Awards and Festivals
Audience Award, Anchorage International Film Festival
Audience Award, VERA Film Festival, Finland
Audience Award, Green Film Festival of San Francisco
Honorable Mention, CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival
Honorable Mention, Olomouc International Festival of Science Documentary Films
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
Krakow Film Festival
DOK.fest München
Millenium International Documentary Festival
Naturvision Film Festival
Seoul International Eco Film Festival
Innsbruck Nature Film Festival
Hawai'i International Film Festival
Banff Mountain Film Festival
New Orleans Film Festival
Yellowknife International Film Festival
Port Townsend Film Festival
Braunschweig International Film Festival
Another Way Film Festival
Architecture Film Festival Rotterdam
Beholders; Documentary Dialogues Festival
Colorado Environmental Film Festival
Durango Independent Film Festival
Salt Springs Film Festival
Festival International du film Eau et Climat
Princeton Environmental Film Festival

Arctic Studies
Climate Change/Global Warming
Earth Science
Global Issues
Life Science
Natural Resources
Russian/Slavic Studies

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... more Reviews

"Within the heaviness of our world, Pleistocene Park will make you smile, giggle and consider what you need to do to combat climate change. Energetic. Inspiring."
Melanie Zuzarte, ThirtyFour Flavour

"Part road movie, part character study, all invigorating fun, Pleistocene Park optimistically illustrates the ways in which individuals have the power to inspire radical change...The grassroots spirit of the film should speak to audiences hungry for an alternative to the status quo. And climate change deniers...will inevitably be won over by the Zimovs' spunk and dedication."
Pat Mullen, POV Magazine

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