Profile — 23 Nov 2018
In her work, Russian-Dutch filmmaker and designer Polina Medvedeva explores how resourceful individuals create informal economies in order to circumvent restrictive government regulations and overcome economic hardship. Shot in her hometown of Pskov in western Russia, her 2015 film The Champagne Drinkers: Russia's Informal Economy from the Back Seat of a Taxi takes its title from the Russian proverb: “One who doesn’t take risks doesn’t drink champagne.” The film follows over a dozen of the city’s unlicensed cab drivers, many of whom began using their cars as taxis after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the closure of area factories. The illegal practice is now so widespread that one driver claims “every second person is a taxi driver.” These men and women chat about their lives and work with Medvedeva as she captures their conversations from the back seat. Her interviews last as long as each ride, and these interactions shed light on the precarity of their work with poignancy and humor.