The Foundation Pit


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Foundation Pit
"Being hit squarely in the face with the sheer volume of these, often barely watched, entreaties is doubtless part of the point."

Taking its title from Andrei Platanov's long-censored dystopian novel of the same name, this found-footage documentary from Andrei Gryazev assembles YouTube clips from across Russia to paint a bleak picture of crumbling infrastructure, failed political leadership and desperation.

The film unfolds in collections of videos addressing similar themes, beginning with the foundation pits of the title - huge holes in the ground dug for prospective buildings which, in many cases have been left to fill with water, or prove so unstable that they suck in the land around them like a sinkhole. One video shows a digging machine toppling over into one, while others capture children playing on treacherously thin ice - the idea of what is, in name, construction leading to destruction an irony that runs through the film.

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Many of the clips are open video letters specifically to President Vladimir Putin - almost all referring to him in less than glowing terms - with names, listed at the end of the film, often including phrases like "cry for help" or "address" to the president. Some of the reported woes drift towards the comical, such as the man desperate for the return of "miniature bottles" of booze. But many build to an, at times heartbreaking, chorus of protest about bigger issues including environmental pollution, wrongful arrest and failing utilities, especially in the far-flung corners of the country, seemingly forgotten by cities like Moscow. The sense of sadness generated is compounded by much of the video information at the end, revealing just how scant the amount of views have been of some of these cries for help. All generations are represented, from a child desperate for kidney tablets to a mother, her beaten face showing the unchecked domestic abuse she has suffered with no help from police, and grandmothers being made homeless.

Inevitably, this sort of approach to filmmaking is a bit of a blunt instrument, which is likely to leave some audiences struggling to sustain their attention even for the trim 69 minute running time. But being hit squarely in the face with the sheer volume of these, often barely watched, entreaties is doubtless part of the point - a cri du coeur from a nation with few uncensored avenues to use to vent.

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2021
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A found footage film compiled from countless YouTube videos in which the people of Russia make a direct appeal to President Putin.

Director: Andrei Gryazev

Writer: Andrei Gryazev

Year: 2020

Runtime: 71 minutes

Country: Russia

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