Tolyatti is a city in Russia’s Volga district where, at the risk of sounding like an old husk, the young population seems like they know how to do things and want to do such things. These things mostly concern automotive skills. The city was once Russia’s answer to Detroit, and in a way, it kind of still is. The booming automotive industry there is now at a standstill. These young people can’t do anything with their skills. At least not directly, since they’re using what they know about engines to improve the old cars they have for drift racing.
Viewers are witnessing Tolyatti’s fall. But that doesn’t mean that its youth want to fall with it, and that’s true whether or not they want to stay or leave. In Tolyatti Adrift, director Laura Sistero looks at three young people from they city, Lera, Misha, and Slava. Sistero specifically gives Lara screen time on key points in the documentary. Lera tries to struggle her boyfriend in the military and her hobby as a racer. She’s also trying to get her degree in food management. Her male counterparts have less choices – either pursue something automotive or join the military.
Tolyatti Adrift sheds great light on an otherwise obscure Russian city. And that spotlight isn’t just on the three main subjects, as it also shows them spending time with their parents and elders. Some of these parents are supportive of their drift racing hobby, which includes buying old cars to remodel. There is a division among the elders as to whether or not they should stay or go. The documentary presents that conflict through many tones that surprisingly work together. It also drifted in and out of Hot Docs’ Top 20 list and I hope it climbs its way back there.
Find out how to watch Tolyatti Adrift as part of Hot Docs here.