Description from TIFF 2012 catalog by Thom Powers:
No Place on Earth brings to light an extra-ordinary true tale of survival that remained untold for decades. In 1993, Chris Nicola, an American cave enthusiast, was exploring the Ukraine’s “gypsum giants,” some of the longest horizontal caves in the world. Within this labyrinth, he came across signs of former human habitation: buttons, an old house key, a woman’s dress shoe. Locals told him that during World War II, there were rumours of Jewish families hiding from the Nazis in the caves. No one knew what happened to them; over ninety-five per cent of the Jews in this region of Ukraine perished in the Holocaust. It took Nicola nine years to uncover the secret that the cave survivors had kept to themselves after emigrating to Canada and the United States. Now, they were ready to tell their story.
Built upon interviews with five former cave inhabitants, No Place on Earth is a testament to ingenuity, willpower and endurance against all odds. In total, thirty-eight people of all ages wound up living in the caves for nearly eighteen months, until the region was liberated by Soviet Army — the longest underground survival in recorded human history. The survivors recount their harrowing experiences in this harsh environment as they learned to find food, water and supplies and built secret escape routes to evade capture or being buried alive. Director Janet Tobias brings their memories to life with artful re-enactments that vividly recreate this unimaginable existence beneath the earth.
The story touches the present as well as the past, as we follow an emotional trip in 2010 where Nicola leads a group of the survivors and their descendants back into the caves on a journey of remembrance. As living memory of this story will soon disappear, this film records it in a way that is as wrenching as it is unforgettable.