It has been decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain but our general understanding of what is now Russia, or within its orbit, is poor to say the least. While I think most people in the West could name a handful of cities, there are well over a thousand of them (although they don’t distinguish them from towns). Spread out across its vast expanse, covering two continents and encompassing myriad ethnicities and cultures.
Tolyatti, located in the Samara Oblast, was once a jewel in the crown of Soviet industry. In the 1960s, it became the home to AvtoVAZ, the biggest car manufacturing plant in the USSR. The place where they built the Lada line. It created over 100,000 jobs and was the heart and soul of a city which was renamed in celebration. However, like Michigan, it has fallen on hard times. Tolyatti Adrift focuses on a generation who get their kicks where they can.
Tolyatti Adrift is a fascinating portrait of a city in decline. While prouder older residents still remember the past fondly, those born after the fall of the Berlin Wall see no future. Lost and apathetic. Faced with the prospect of military service followed by a life in poverty, many look to escape. Laura Sistero’s documentary follows Slava, Misha and Lera as they waver on the cusp of adulthood. Turning to a dangerous sport to counter the ennui.
Tolyatti Adrift screened at Visions du Réel.