Universum Hell & Paradise - Russia's Wild Sea

Production Overview

Four thousand miles and nine time zones from Moscow, off the remote coast of Russia’s Far East lies the Sea of Okhotsk – a semi-forgotten, inhospitable and foreboding hell, where rampant earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and violent tsunamis reshape and scar the landscape relentlessly, while destructive typhoons whip up the icy seawaters and pummel the rocky coastlines.

But, behind the volcanic ash, the shaking earth, and the solid mass of packed ice and snow, there exists a miracle of nature – one of the richest paradises on our planet, which thousands of species call home and where survival strategies, instincts and skills are constantly being put to the test.

This is their never-before-seen story: Hell and Paradise.

By focusing on four main species we: fly with the Steller’s sea eagle, the largest raptor in the world, from the northern regions to the southern islands and to the forests where it follows the Siberian tiger; walk with the brown bear, the great predator of the forests, along mountains and coastlines as it hunts for food; slip into the frigid marine world with the acrobatic and curious spotted seal, traveling with them from the ice floes, where they give birth, to the Kuril islands teeming with colonies of birds; and swim in the freshwater rivers with salmon – the lifeblood of the Sea of Okhotsk and the film’s common denominator connecting the stories of the sea eagle, the bears and the spotted seal.

Filming throughout the seasons, our cameras capture animals as they hunt, escape, defend, court, reproduce, hibernate, migrate and die. Astonishing never-before-filmed behaviors are captured on film such as the brown bear that forfeits its hibernation and stays warm near geo thermal hot pools, the Steller’s sea eagle that preys on sea gulls in flight, the killer whale that pursues the spotted seal up a freshwater river, and the beluga whale that swims into the shallows of a river to prey on spawning salmon.

Scenes with remarkable interactions between species as well as stories of survival strategies and adaptations unfold as each animal guides us through their world.

Hell and Paradise is the first ever blue-chip natural history documentary about the Sea of Okhotsk and it is a full immersion into the volatile wilds of Russia. Shot over the course of two years using cutting-edge filming techniques and technology, our intrepid film crew are the first to venture where few have dared to go to capture spectacular never-before filmed landscapes and animal behaviors; we travel from the depths of the unpredictable icy Sea of Okhotsk to the primeval mountain forests, where the Siberian tiger reigns, and to the Kuril islands – the planet’s most tectonically active volcanic archipelago. The film is as much about the untamed sea, the breathtaking volcanic landscape and the uncompromising climate as it is about the formidable range of wildlife and their unique adaptations that enable them to live here.

A Production of Interspot Film for ORF Universum, Russia 1, Smithsonian Channel, ZDF, Arte and National Geographic. Distributed by ORF Enterprise.


Interspot FilmORF Universum LogoRussia 1smithsonian channelzdfartenational geographicorf enterprise


Writer and Director: Franz Hafner
Photography: Oliver Indra, Dietrich Heller, Rene Rothkopf, Martin Haupt
Editor: Werner Müller, Michael Adlassnig
Line Producer: Alexander Bundtzen
Production Management: Lucia Metzbauer
Executive Producer: Heinrich Mayer-Moroni, Nikolaus Klingohr
Comissioning Editor ORF: Franz Fuchs
Executive Producer ORF: Andrew Solomon

Your Contacts

Heinrich Mayer-Moroni
Heinrich Mayer-Moroni
Telephone: +43180120-420