In the capital of the enchanting Abkhazia, destroyed by civil war, is the oldest monkey laboratory of the world. It is in a sad state. On the eve of a possible new war, the lab workers try to secure the survival of the lab. Director: Astrid Bussink DoP: Jackó van 't Hof. A Zeppers Film production in co-production with NPS. (2008)
Official selection Rotterdam Int Film Festival 2008
Official selection Thessaloniki Int Film Festival 2008
Official selection Hotdocs, Int Filmfestival Toronto 2008
The Story of "The Lost Colony" by Astrid Bussink: www.vimeo.com/19825113
Astrid Bussink is a Dutch filmmaker and artist. During her MA at Edinburgh College of Art, she shot the award-winning documentary The Angel Makers and was then commissioned to make a Bridging the Gap film on the theme of Lies: Rückenlage / Upside Down. In 2008 she directed her first feature documentary ‘The Lost Colony’ followed in 2010 ‘Mijn Enschede’.
The oldest primate laboratory in the world, located in the enchanting former Soviet republic of Abkhazia, was virtually destroyed during its struggle for independence from Georgia.
But the lab workers refuse to give up their lab and have come up with a new idea to restore it to its former pride and glory.
With the help of their renowned former director Professor Lapin they hope to put their institute back on the map.
The Lost Colony follows their efforts, made with boundless confidence and unwavering hope, against all odds.
In some vague newspaper article I read about “newly opened KGB documents” revealing that at some time somewhere in Russia an attempt had been made to cross monkeys with humans.
“Somewhere in Russia” turned out to have been a primate laboratory in Abkhazia, a beautiful subtropical former Soviet republic.
I was intrigued by this place which I knew nothing about, and by what turned out to be the oldest monkey lab in the world.
In the course of my research the Abkhazian predicament became painfully clear to me.
The struggle for independence from Georgia in 1992 had seriously damaged the country...
Despite the many problems facing the country, the staff of the lab which itself was largely destroyed are fighting to rebuild it.
In its glory days, important work in the fields of cancer research and space exploration took place at the lab, and staff are determined to bring back those days at all costs, with little more than unremitting hope and belief at their disposal.
This fascinated me, I wanted to get to know these people and their motives, as well as showing this beautiful country and its struggle.
I saw the lab as a symbol of the way this little-known country keeps fighting for its right to exist, for the human need to keep hoping and fighting for recovery.
Crossing humans with monkeys, had in fact been attempted there, but this failed experiment, like so many other of its past experiments, turned out to be no more than a ghost haunting the now largely inactive laboratory…
The Abkhazian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Pathology and Therapy, mostly called by the locals the Monkey Colony, was founded in 1927. The Colony resides on the Trapezia mountain, inside what used to be Professor Alexei Ostroumov's dacha.
The first monkeys were brought to Sukhum in 1927: chimps, baboons and macaques. It was quite a challenge to acclimatize and breed the monkeys in captivity: they kept dying of dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis and helminth infestations. Many talented scientists worked on the problem and finally ensured the colony's health.
During the Soviet years, the Institute was a worldwide-known primatology center which conducted important research and cooperated with scientists from different countries. The Sukhum Monkey Colony consisted of about 5000 species who resided in vast sections and cages of the building. The scientists tested various vaccines and medicine on the primates, researched the growth of cancer cells, the influence of radiation on the organism and even trained the primates for space travel. They were also subjected to research of stress influence on the body, high blood pressure, myocardial infarction and leucosis. In the 1960s the Sukhum Monkey Colony was called the Experimentalists' Dream. Over 3000 serious scientific works were conducted here.
In 1977 a monkey monument was built on the Institute's territory, to commemorate the primates who gave their lives to science.