There are war movies, there are dramas, and then there are Holocaust films. Plenty of works occupy this sub-genre, but not all do justice to one of modern history’s most horrific and widespread genocides. To tell the fascinating story of one group’s survival, however, one documentary blends interviews and dramatization in a way that effectively portrays man’s triumph over evil.

A trailer for the Magnolia Pictures-acquired TIFF selection No Place On Earth was released, and the footage promises an account both terrible and inspiring. Directed by Janet Tobias, it shows how caver Chris Nicola stumbled upon an underground refuge once used by Ukrainian Jews to hide from the Nazis. After years of searching for answers, he finds a group of survivors who spent a year and half in the cave system, the longest duration ever in recorded history.

Similar to recent documentaries like The Imposter, No Place On Earth adds emotional weight with scripted, re-enacted scenes, which, in this case, are based off of Esther Stermer’s memoir We Fight to Survive and the writing of other survivors. It also features testimony from four real-life survivors who recount how they were able to inhabit the harsh, sunless environment. Hopefully, the TV-style dramatizations work with the straight documentary style, but regardless, that shouldn’t take away from what looks like an utterly fascinating story. See trailer and synopsis below.


In October 1942, Esther Stermer, the matriarch of a Jewish family in the Ukraine, leads her family underground to hide from the pursuing Nazis—and stays nearly a year and a half. Their harrowing story of survival living in near total darkness in two cold, damp caves is one like no other ever told. It was life… like No Place On Earth.

No Place On Earth opens to limited theatrical release on April 5th.

Does the trailer intrigue you? Would you see No Place On Earth?

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