A summer behind the Iron Curtain: documenting the fall of the Soviet Union
Stories from his latest adventure sound like scenes from a Russian version of James Bond, and he ultimately hopes that his new project will inspire other young people to travel and explore the world beyond the classroom.
Gore, a UVU aviation student, and Christine Armbruster, a BYU student and photographer, set out to explore and document the tiny forgotten or unnoticed towns of Russia left destitute after the collapse of the Soviet Union. These towns, called monogorods, are settlements that were built around a single industry, much like mining towns once popular in America. After the collapse of the USSR, the nearly 2 thousand monogorods shifted from being government controlled to private ownership. Because of tough competition with the free market, many towns prospered while others were left impoverished or even barren.
While much has changed in Russia since the Cold War, its effects are still felt by the millions of people living there, yet no one is really paying them any attention. Fueled by curiosity and the desire to share the immensely important but untold stories of Russian life post-Soviet Union, Gore and Armbruster spent their summer roaming through Russia with just the clothes on their backs and two backpacks full of equipment to make their upcoming documentary “Half Day Around.”
The filmmakers prove that you don’t have to be a Columbus or a Werner Herzog to explore completely foreign territory. “My hope is that the film will help inspire other students to travel and learn about a different culture than their own. With traveling comes a type of learning that you can’t get anywhere else,” Gore said.
As he works on sorting out the footage, photos, and memories of all the experiences he had on the other side of the globe, Gore noted that the most important lesson he
learned is that “despite the fact there are bad people and horrific things in this world, the majority of people are great and eager to lend a hand.”
His entire journey was made possible through the kindness and generosity of friends, family and even people he had never met before. While in Russia, it was the strangers he met on the street that offered the young filmmakers a place to stay or volunteered to act as tour guides and translators. “Some people might say we were lucky,” Gore stated, “but the more optimistic view is that there are people out there willing to help others.”
Although the filming for “Half Day Around” is mostly completed, the project still has a long road ahead of it. Gore and Armbruster are hoping to raise the last of their needed funds by September 13, 2011. The filmmakers plan on presenting a teaser for the movie by December and are arranging gallery showings to display photos and profiles of people from the trip. The film will make its debut sometime next year.
Check out the exhibit at Juice n’ Java at 280 West 100 North, Provo.