In the heart of the Arctic, the Yamal peninsula is the world’s largest gas exploitation zone – a symbol of Russia’s energy hyperpower. The discovery of massive gas deposits has whetted the appetite of oil corporations like Novatek, TOTAL and the Chinese National Petroleum Corp. But the Yamal peninsula is also the ancestral home of the nenets, who have been pasturing here for over 200 generations. Every year, Vassily and his brigade undertake this 1500 kilometre journey. But for how much longer? Can they survive this industrialisation?
Today in Yamal, pastures have given way to gas fields. Growing towns, a railway, an airport, not to mention the deep scars on the landscape caused by the extraction of gas and oil, and the new nuclear-powered icebreakers which will create busy shipping lanes in the Arctic, are all changing the local ecosystem. Not to mention the accelerating pace of climate change in the region, which will be further exacerbated by the release of these hydrocarbons. With the industry dramatically modifying the landscape, accelerating the effects of global warming, the Nenets way of life is under threat.
As the permafrost melts, and the weather systems no longer follow their traditional ways of understanding, there is a risk that centuries of history and a whole way of life will be wiped out. While the region itself has been made wealthy by gas, up to 70% of the indigenous population live below the poverty line. They do not directly oppose the government, knowing that they will not win in any confrontation with Moscow. So they try to live alongside the gas exploitation, adapting their routes to the changing conditions.
What shape will the fight between these two worlds take? At what price will the Russians take over the wealth of the Arctic? This film is a unique insight into a vanishing way of life, enhanced by stunning aerial footage and unique access to an extraordinary people.
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