Andrei Platonov’s novel The Foundation Pit, a hallucinatory satire of Stalin’s plans for collectivisation that was finished in 1930 but censored for decades, sees a group of Soviet workers tasked with digging a foundation pit on which a house for the proletariat is to be built. But as the endless job goes on, sapping all their energy, it becomes apparent that they may in fact be digging a massive grave. Russian filmmaker Andrey Gryazev has taken the book’s title for a found-footage documentary, which had its world premiere at the Berlinale and screens at the Krakow Film Festival. It weaves together a deluge of clips of desperate, at times livid, appeals to President Putin that citizens have uploaded to YouTube. The title echo is clever, suggesting a Russia that may have transitioned from rule by a communist despot, but is still mired in dead-end poverty across much of its vastness, where forgotten inhabitants barely subsist, cheated out of a promised utopia. Unlike Soviet times, they now have the platform of the internet for voicing discontent. Their clips may be mere shouts into a void, in terms of gaining an audience with Putin or any material change to their living conditions, but they stand as ripples of dissent disrupting the possibility for any flawless sheen on state-engineered propaganda. In this sense, Gryazev’s The Foundation Pit is the inferno uncensored.
The film starts out with a series of accidents, mishaps, and disasters involving actual foundation pits that have popped up on news segments across Russia. Clips cover tractors, buildings, and even people falling into these construction sites which, sometimes standing unfinished for years, become hazards that evoke a whole abyss of bureaucratic ineptitude and the perilous nature of simple survival for the everyperson. In perhaps the most …
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