No Place for Fools

2014

Russia / Bulgaria, 82 min.

Directed by Oleg Mavromatti and PO98
Producers: Boryana Rossa (SUPERNOVA) and Andrey Silvestrov (Cine Fantom)
Script: Oleg Mavromatti
Editing: Oleg Mavromatti and Boryana Rossa Sound: Tihon Pendyrin
Idea by: Oleg Mavromatti and PO98
English translation: Boryana Rossa, Misha Rabinovic

“Some centuries ago Peter the Great criminalized the holy fools. Today, with the help of Internet, I resurrect this holy fool tradition, to draw a critical portrait of Russia’s darkest side.”

Oleg Mavromatti

“Mavromatti’s film is a comprehensive allegorical assessment of contemporary Russia, in the exact same manner reasoned, painful and hopeless, exactly like “Leviathan” by Andrey Zvyagintsev and “The Fool” by Yuri Bykov.”

Evgeny Maizel “Iskusstvo Kino” 2015

SYNOPSIS

Sergey Astahov is a gay man converted by Church and state propaganda into an orthodox pro-Putin activist. Composed of terrifying images from Astahov’s blog, this documentary by contemporary artist Oleg Mavromatti is the most radical insight into today’s Russia and its ideological clashes. ‘We must not give away our children to foreigners and homosexuals,’ says Sergej Astahov in the documentary dedicated to him, No Place for Fools. A few months prior to this pronouncement, Astahov himself was openly gay. The documentary is comprised of clips placed by Astahov on his blog. We see him praising modern Moscow shopping malls, eulogising on the pleasures of gay porn and drawing up all manner of lists – from his favourite songs to his illnesses. He considers his homosexuality one of the latter. It gradually becomes clear, reading between the lines, that Astahov has been admitted to a psychiatric clinic to ‘cure’ him of this ‘disease’. We also see a video in which he marries a woman, subsequently morphing into a patriotic, Orthodox Christian Russian – a Putin supporter who sometimes relapses into his old self: ‘I love men.’ A documentary that pointedly highlights the insurmountable, confusing ideological changes taking place in contemporary Russia.

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

With “No Place for Fools” I want to draw a portrait of contemporary Russian society. The curious and controversial character I have created with this film is somewhat entertaining but also disturbing introduction to what capitalist Russia means to most of its citizens now. The life of this character is dominated by the macabre desires of the consumerist culture from one side and the restrictions of the sexist imperialist propaganda on the other side. His life can be compared to a nightmarish schizophrenic birthday cake from which jumps out an evil naked clown with a suicide belt. But practically no one who watches these videos in their original form can see all that. Therefore my work as a director is what makes the film’s statement. I would compare my work to the work of an editor of a book, who aggressively re-writes most of the selected texts. By researching Youtube videos and including some of them in my film, I act as a curator who visits artist’s studios and chooses from this “library of concepts” what he needs to make his statement. Then I repaint the gallery and build walls so the art included in it doesn’t look as it did in its studio context.
This film develops a thread of a particular type of filmmaking I started with my film “Bastards” (“Vibliadki”), 1999. Then I used an actor to voice out my observations of society and media, who acted as realistically as possible to create the feeling of a real person. For that I developed a special method to work with actors called “controlled improvisation.” Now I “find” these “actors” on Internet and use their videos as samples for my work.

PRODUCERS’ STATEMENTS

Boryana Rossa: This film is a unique look into the life of a person, whose voice is never heard. Director Oleg Mavromatti is the one to give the voice to this lonely and confused man who is trying to survive in the chaos of moral and social values that surrounds him. Capitalist worship of money as freedom contradicts with his poverty, his social status and how his mental condition is treated by society. He is looking for a silent harbor where this contradiction will be resolved. He thinks he had found it in the patriotic homophobic ideology of the media propaganda. But it is not there either, because he is gay. This man ends up speaking and performing more like a drunk poet than a patriot. By very minimal means Mavromatti succeeds to build this multi-layered character, which the audience is falling immediately in love with. The author also transmits an important message about what freedom, love and happiness is or can be. Not on the last place the avant-garde approach of this film, allows us to peak in the parallel universe of vlogers framed by virtually networked likes and dislikes.

Andrey Silvestrov: Oleg Mavromatti’s film is an absolutely new genre of audio-visual production. It is made exclusively from Internet footage, however it gathers very bright, very individual, typical just for Oleg, rhythm and approach to the organization of the art material. The strength of his artistic statement can be compared to the most outstanding works of world cinema. This strength is in the unusual and penetrating actuality of his message not only for contemporary Russia, but for the entire world. I envy you, who will be watching this film. I am proud that our company had helped its production.

Press:

“The most extravagant surprise (in Rotterdam) became No Place for Fools, by the famous contemporary artist and anti-clerical activist Oleg Mavromatti, comprised exclusively of off Internet images: here we (also) can’t find a single shot made especially for this film.” Andrey Plahov, Komerssant Daily, Jan. 30. 2015.

“No Place for Fools is an accidental testimony, revealing far more even than it intends, as we watch a life and a world unfolding before us in Russia today.” Adrian Searle. “From Marx to Brexit: Tyneside’s AV festival paints the whole world red” The Guardian, Mar. 5. 2016.

“Mixed with sequences from Russian grocery stores and people freaking out because of special offers, gives a very disturbing picture of today’s society, and one you won’t forget easily.” Carolin Weidner, “Crazy Love in Rotterdam,” Fipresci, 2015. 

“…he gives us a prescription: let’s try to convert our consciousness to accept varieties of expressions of humanness, as opposed to submitting it to the total domination of the abstract slogans of everyday propaganda.” Olga Shakina, Colta.ru, Feb.4.2015

“The controversial feelings, that this video and the personality of the main character Astakhov evoke, namely—shame, embarrassment, disgust, disappointment, empathy—at the end appear to be the phenomenon of personal identification that cinema itself is built on.” Olga Ryabuhina, Art1.ru, 2015.

“But most importantly Mavromatti is not making fun of his character – for these eighty two minutes, the miserable man becomes a full-blooded metaphor of today’s sick Russia. This is not just a sensational, this is a terrifying experience.” Genoveva Dimitrova, “Rotterdam, Beyond the Competition. Propaganda, Sex, Feminism.” Kultura Weekly, # 6 (2798), Feb, 13, 201.

“Aren’t you getting horrified or amazed how during the Third Reich people weren’t reacting on things as we were? Why was that? Now I see why. Because this is how all these mechanisms (of propaganda) work even now. They are even working on a different, higher quality level now.” Andrey Silvestrov, Interview with Oleg Mavromatti. “Granitsi boli: Oleg Mavromatti” CINEFANTOM Newspaper 

“The newest sensation, praised by Olaf Moller and other cinephiles is the film No Place for Fools by Oleg Mavromatti–composed off of fragments from the vlog of Sergey Astakhov, as well as found on YouTube scenery of car crashes, suicides, fights and drunken dances…” Dmitry Volchek, Radio Svoboda, “Leviathans and Colorades: The Best Films of the Rotterdam Festival.” Feb. 2. 2015.