Intended for healthcare professionals

Views & Reviews Film Review

Defective medicine

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 18 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3111
  1. Gerry A Thomas, chair in molecular pathology, Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College, London
  1. geraldine.thomas{at}

Near a former Soviet atomic bomb testing site in Kazakhstan, a doctor is encouraging eugenics using fear that it is radiation exposure that causes the unusually high rates of birth defects in the area. Gerry A Thomas recommends this film

The film After the Apocalypse is not what you might first assume from its title. It is set in the region of Kazakhstan that was exposed to fallout from more than 450 tests of atomic bombs carried out by the Soviet authorities between 1949 and 1989. The area is known as “the Polygon,” and the 10 000 people that inhabited the areas to the north and southeast of this area, close to the town of Semipalatinsk, were exposed to fallout in particular from 118 atmospheric and surface tests carried out between 1949 and 1965. The area is home to Kazakh shepherds who graze their herds of sheep and horses in an area pockmarked by bomb craters.

The focus of the film is a girl called Bibigul. She and her mother clearly share a craniofacial deformity, which her mother associates with her own exposure to radiation as a child. Bibigul …

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