In Genesis 2.0 we follow Siberian tusk hunters uncovering animal bodies from the Siberian permafrost. If only one living cell could be recovered – the artificial reconstruction of a living mammoth would become possible.
«God’s word is still imperfect, but if we work together, we can make God perfect.»
This is only one of the provoking statements made by one of the leaders of the Earth BioGenome Project – the largest on-going project to decrypt the DNA structures of all living beings.
The Chinese BioGenome laboratory has undertaken one of the most complex and seminal challenges to scientific research in our time: the complete digital copy of life itself. The goal is to decode 3000 genome structures per year, and it will be achieved in the near future. €1000 is the current market price of a decrypted genome. About 2 million individual specimens have already been sampled and archived.
Although Christian Frei’s Genesis 2.0, featured in Vision de Réel in Nyon this April, starts rather inoffensively with natural scenery as its backdrop, the social criticism that the film presents should not be mistaken.
A dangerous journey through Siberian waters
The camera follows some of the mammoth tusk hunters working in the high and hidden northern regions of Siberia. Every year they risk a dangerous boat journey through the icy ocean to get to the «New Siberian Islands». Here, the melting permafrost unveils a remarkable number of the magnificent prehistoric animals. All of these mammoth tusk hunters are marked by symptoms of isolation and solitude, spending several months in this hostile area. For several hundred dollars they risk their lives. The real profit, however, is taken by middlemen who also pressure the crew to stop filming at the point when the tusks are handed over to them.
«One well-preserved horn could cover their modest living expenses for the following years.»
Maxim Arbugaev – Christian Frei’s collaborator and co-director of Genesis 2.0 – spent a full season with the hunters, capturing their daily life and their relentless digging in the icy ground which resembles an addiction. One well-preserved horn could cover the tusk hunters’ modest living expenses for years to come. But their hunts seem to be damned. Through voice-over we hear myths, legends, strange warning stories and old songs concerning all those who touch the cadavers of the sacred animals.
Arbugaev and Frei present two opposing realities – far-off nature and high-tech genome research. They communicate constantly by email, and the documentary offers an elegant connection between the two worlds. Animal bodies, sometimes whole, freshly released from the permafrost, give off liquid or even blood in some rare situations. If only one living cell could be recovered here, the artificial reconstruction of the mammoth as a living animal would become possible.
«The genetic sequences causing Down’s syndrome have already been identified, and can be removed in a prenatal state.»
Dr George Church at Harvard Medical School is one of the key figures in genetic engineering in the world today, systematically pursuing the idea of planting a mammoth cell in an elephant’s womb to produce a resurrection.
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