The end of the 20th Century was considered the end of history, even the end of utopias. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, liberal-democratic capitalism was finally accepted as the preferred socio-political system. Now, in the first half of the 21st Century, the last big utopia of the 1990s has disintegrated. We are faced with the calamities of exploding global warming, new wars that threaten to get nuclear, September 11, financial meltdown, digital control over our lives depriving us of our freedoms, and political populism driven by a depth of cynical self-interest that reveals the unstable nature of democracy itself. Slavoj Žižek is the closest thing philosophy has to a superstar. He returns to the screen with The Pervert’s Guide to Utopias, the third in the celebrated series of films directed by Sophie Fiennes. Through his unique analysis of classic films, mainstream blockbusters, cult B-movies, popular TV series, music videos and political and current events, Zizek provides the essential cognitive mapping for our predicament in these apocalyptic times. “With the rise of new threats, utopias were mostly replaced by dystopias which brought to an end the ongoing catastrophic tendencies,” says Zizek. “Movies became obsessed with some version of global apocalypse and a miserable post-apocalyptic life. But what one should take care to notice is that efforts to depict a new post-apocalyptic society often indulge in imagining a new authentic society of close personal links, without alienated state institutions. One man’s dystopia can be another man’s utopia. For today’s new populist Right, a society where sexism and racism are prohibited can only be a new totalitarian order. Today sexuality is permeated by opposing utopian visions of a new conservative order or the new ‘non-binary’ possibilities. Anarchist utopians think if we abolish the state authority, a new global solidarity will emerge.” Žižek’s matrix of ideas and Fiennes’ visually inventive direction delivers entertainment and revelation in equal measure. The Pervert’s Guide to Utopias does not offer a simple solution or seek to impart some dogma: it enables viewers to make their own choices and, above all, to become aware of the true implications of those choices.
Sophie Fiennes is a film director whose feature documentaries for theatrical exhibition include her collaborations with the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, The Pervert’sGuide to Cinema (2006), and The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012), her portrait of German artist Anselm Keifer, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow (2010), and her most recent film Grace Jones; Bloodlight and Bami (2017), an observational odyssey into the world of the iconic singer and performer. This project came about following Fiennes’ first feature documentary Hoover Street Revival (2001) about a Pentecostal church community in Los Angeles, and the sermons of its preacher, Bishop Noel Jones, brother of Grace Jones.Fiennes’ work for television includes her first short Lars from 1-10, about the Danish film director Lars von Trier and his ‘Dogme rules’ film manifesto and arts documentaries, The Late Michael Clark,(2000), Because I Sing (2001), VSPRS Show and Tell (2005), and Liu Xiaodong Half Street (2013). She also made a 5 minute fictional short, First Row Orchestra, for Arte’s Hopper Vu Par (2012). Fiennes' films have received international distribution and screened in festivals from Cannes official selection to Toronto and Sundance. She was awarded a NESTA fellowship in 2001, to develop her innovative approach to film, and the Arte France Cinema Award in 2008 at Rotterdam’s Cinemart.