An engrossing new Czech documentary entitled 13 MINUTES tells the stories of several drivers who caused fatal accidents. The film, which is available from Thursday, may serve as a stark warning to other motorists – but it also explores issues of honesty and personal responsibility.
Last year Vít Klusák broke box office records with Caught in the Net, a film he co-directed exploring the online grooming of minors. Now the top Czech documentarian is returning with very different subject matter. 13 MINUTES tells the story of five motorists whose speeding caused the deaths of other people, including their own friends, on Czech roads. Klusák explains the title of this highly original film.
“It is the average time that a driver saves on the Prague to Brno route when they speed at an average rate, which is 20 kilometres above the permitted limit. But that is a speed at which fatal accidents happen – because it markedly reduces drivers’ reaction times when something unexpected occurs.”
13 MINUTES is part of a campaign named Slow Down Before It’s Too Late, run by the Czech Insurance Association, the Ministry of Transport and the police.
And the documentary has very high production values. Fifteen cars were destroyed and 18 stunt drivers used in dramatic re-enactments of the motorists’ collisions and at times it resembles a very sophisticated public information film.
But it also explores issues surrounding honesty and personal responsibility, with several of the protagonists giving different accounts to those they had provided previously, including in court. Vít Klusák continues:
“It was quite remarkable that most of the culprits described what happened differently the first time we met them. But then, when we started to painstakingly recreate their accidents, the actual stories of what happened were uncovered during the shooting process.”
Critic Kristina Rohačková reviewed 13 MINUTES this week for news site iRozhlas.cz. She says the documentary has a lot of positives.
“I think it’s done with great care. And what is definitely a plus is that it doesn’t feel like you are watching a 90-minute long infomercial. You don’t feel like you are being educated and you are definitely not bored. I think that above all it’s trying to look inside the minds of Czech drivers – who they are and how they think – so you know what to expect when you meet one or become one.”
As for the protagonists, Rohačková says she was not greatly surprised by the kind of drivers – all men – featured.
“I think they really tried to show a diverse group of people. But in terms of thinking, of who would be involved in a car accident like this, I think they fit the profile, in a way.”
13 MINUTES will be broadcast by Czech Television on Thursday evening and will then be available on the station’s website.