After the Apocalypse

A region afraid to give birth

Produced by Antony Butts

Bibigul is a young pregnant woman with what local doctors call a “frightful, defected face.” She is the daughter of Biken, a deformed survivor of a Cold War experiment where 456 nuclear weapons were secretly tested on the population of Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan

The KGB encouraged locals to fish and swim in the radioactive crater lakes. Sheep still graze in the area, and in the most affected villages 1 in 23 children are born with a birth defect. Confronted with the appalling legacy and convinced their ills are due to continuing background radiation and related genetic damage, the community is divided over what to do next.

Bibigul is told by the head of the city’s maternity clinic that her child will likely be born with Down syndrome, and encourages her to abort. Convinced the area is in the midst of a “genetic apocalypse”, the doctor calls for the law to be changed.

This is the untold story of a great tragedy but leaves viewers disquieted about what should be done, both with the unexpected and long-lasting legacy of nuclear weapons, and with the power of the genetic manipulation that is at last beginning to come of age.


‘Without seed-funding from Worldview to go out to Kazakhstan, this film would have remained an unproven idea on a piece of paper’


A work of considerable bravery… ★★★★  Mike McCahill, The Sunday Telegraph

One of the most important and valuable films of the year ★★★★  Derek Malcolm, Evening Standard

Incredibly moving ★★★★ Jamie Russell, Total Film

Compelling and indelibly disturbing ★★★★ David Parkinson, Empire

A fascinating watch in the current times of Fukushima – very heart-tugging in places where you’re rooting for the mother Damon Smith, The Robert Elms Show, BBC London Radio

An amazing triumph. It’s a struggle between science and the power of a mother’s love Sheffield Doc/Fest

Absolutely stunning… Alexander Kan, BBC

Provocative, impressive and disturbing ★★★ Time Out

★★★★★ Camden New Journal/Islington Tribune/ West End Extra

★★★ The Guardian

★★★ The Financial Times

★★★★★ Eye For Film

★★★★ Now Toronto