Though it won a surprise Sundance directing award, Nino Kirtadze's docu "Durakovo: Village of Fools" offers just partial insight into a quaintly preserved rural village outside Russia where one Mikhail Morozov lords over a serf-like flock of heavy-laboring acolytes.

Though it won a surprise Sundance directing award, Nino Kirtadze’s docu “Durakovo: Village of Fools” offers just partial insight into a quaintly preserved rural village outside Russia where one Mikhail Morozov lords over a serf-like flock of heavy-laboring acolytes. His apparent mission is to revive the Imperial Russian empire of yore by creating a new “army” loyal to country, czar (or Putin) and the Russian Orthodox church — plus himself, natch. Kirtadze means to offer a microcosm of rising nationalist zealotry in Russia, but leaves too many informational and analytical gaps to satisfy. Some fest travel and tube sales are likely.

A bearish man with the look (amply bared during numerous swimming and soaking interludes) of a wrestler gone to flab, Morozov presides over a sealed-off community in which is he absolute ruler and rule-maker. The mostly male populace seems content to submit for the benefit of Mother Russia, whose glory (under both monarchy and Communism) they hope to save from the Western capitalist democracy established in the Yeltsin years. In practice, however, they seem to do little but heavy manual labor while the boss lounges and lectures.

It’s unclear, however, where the money comes from, what the typical resident’s background is, how well they are fed and housed, etc. Scenes featuring unhappy new arrival, Leg, have a staged feel. Brief interludes with longer-term inhabitants ought to occupy more than a sliver of screentime.

Instead, we get much footage of Morozov consorting with fat cats (including parliament’s VP Sergey Babunir and an archbishop) when not yelling at subordinates for their alleged incompetence. He’s clearly an opportunistic megalomaniac, but the larger questions the docu raise go unanswered in a technically polished package. The press-kit director’s notes reveal a great deal more about the Big Brother-like downside of Durakovo and its ominous political implications than anything Kirtadze managed to get onscreen.

Durakovo: Village of Fools

France - Germany

Production

An Arte France, Zadig Prods. (France)/Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (Germany) production, in association with Steps Intl., ITVS. Produced by Paul Rozenberg. Directed, written by Nino Kirtadze.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Jacek Petrycki; editors, Rudolph Moll, Kirtadze; sound, Patrick J. Bollard. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema -- competing), Jan. 24, 2008. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Mikhail Morozov, Leg, Alekseeva, Anatoly, Dima, Yevgeny Petrovich, Sergey Babunir. (Russian dialogue)

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