The only all-female WWII fighter-pilot regiment gets its day on screen in “Night Witches.” Though reduced to a footnote in history books, the 588th Night Bomber Regiment became the most decorated unit in the Soviet Air Force, risking life and limb from the Russian front in 1942 to the gates of Berlin in ’45. Documaker Gunilla Bresky uses a treasure trove of archive footage and photos, held together by interviews with survivors, to testify to the femmes’ heroism. The History Channel and Euro cable should jump.

Formed during the darkest days of the Russian war machine, the women of the 588th also flew the most dangerous equipment. They piloted planes made of wood and canvas that lit up like a box of matches when hit. Still, they flew between 10 and 17 missions a night, more than any male regiment, and without any safety apparatus; not just the pilots and navigators but also technicians and mechanics were all female. “Night Witches” was the name the Nazis gave them, and it became their nickname. Inclusion of an historian to put these gals and their achievement into context would have been useful.

Night Witches


  • Production: A Swedish Television production. Produced by Roda Leppar. Directed, written by Gunilla Bresky.
  • Crew: Camera (color/B&W, DV), Hilde Korsaeth, Denys Madyshev; editor, Fredrik Ydhag; music, Johan Ramstrom. Reviewed at Tromso Film Festival (Film Focus North), Norway, Jan. 17, 2008. Russian dialogue. Running time: 58 MIN.