This story is part of True/False Conversations, a series of in-depth interviews with the filmmakers of this year's True/False Film Fest.
Meteorites flying through the sky, bear cubs running down the highway, trucks exploding in flames just feet away from other drivers - all of these scenes have been caught on the dash cam footage of cars throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union. Drivers often post those videos to YouTube, creating viral videos that are viewed around the world.
Dmitry Kalashnikov, the director of “The Road Movie” said he decided to combine these videos in a documentary because the reactions of the people featured in them are authentic, but are often as compelling as any scripted film.
Kalashnikov said he first wondered if there would be an international audience for this kind of piece after watching a segment of The Colbert Report in 2013, which featured the dash cam videos of a meteorite crashing into the earth in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Renee Hickman spoke with Kalashnikov about why dash cams are so widespread in Russia and what audiences can learn about human nature from their footage.
Hickman: Can you explain the phenomenon of dash cam videos in Russia?
Kalashnikov: Most of the cars [in Russia] have dashboard cameras because its useful when there is for example, a car crash, an accident. You can use this video to prove that you’re not guilty…because there [are] a lot of cameras, there is a lot of strange footage.
Hickman: What can American audiences learn about Russia from your film?
Kalashnikov: I hope it’s not just exotic. I hope it shows some kind of Russian character, Russian mentality. Mostly it’s our calmness and…living in extreme situations sometimes and being okay with it. I think it can be transferred to all our lives. For example, [from the] political perspective and in our society. This trait of character explains why we are in such situations, I think.
For the foreign audience, I suppose it’s a good chance to see Russians just from the place of the dashboard camera, where no one [adds] any ideology or propaganda or something like that. Just to [have the] pure observation of people and how they react to life.
Hickman: Do you think the film says anything about human nature and not just about Russian character?
Kalashnikov: I was trying to do something about Russian culture, Russian literature maybe….because for example the road itself is a quite an important symbol in Russian literature, in Gogol’s novels, in Saltykov-Schedrin (both 19th century Russian writers) and so on. But yes you’re right. It’s just about people. Like great Russian literature is not only about Russians, but about people themselves.