Review: No Place for You in Our Town

Written and directed by Nikolay Stefanov, co-written by Ralitsa Golemanova and Mariana Sabeva, follows hardcore skinhead and single father Tsetso and his gang, who are violently devoted to the success of their local third division football team. For these residents of Pernik, a slowly decaying ex-mining centre, the team has become a source of identity and a site of aggressively toxic masculinity.

Fascism can be found in countless places across the western world but rarely as overtly as you’ll find in No Place for You in Our Town. To the point that you’ll see one particular football fan wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with Adolf Hitler, it’s a shocking sight but feels much less so as this film unfolds. Their toxicity is strong right from the beginning and doesn’t lessen, their aggression is quick to act and slow to retreat, if at all. It’s then hurtful to see how many young boys are in this atmosphere, drinking in their behaviour and sadly learning to follow their lead. One of the surprising elements is despite all those horrific attitudes, they still stop to clean up their trash from the stadium; they may not have respect for most people but they’re ardently committed to their local team.

As Tsetso is drawn away from football due to his poor health, there’s an almost immediate change. He becomes much more reflective and calm, clearly showing the influence of others, how his toxicity is charged in the presence of his fellow footie fans. He’s then admittedly aware of his prejudices, recognising his racist hatred, and the impact that has on his own son but still not willing to reject that attitude. It dips its toes into his past, what led him to this point but it’s not a hugely satisfying amount of detail, so it does leave you feeling like we’ve only scratched the surface. Especially as it takes into account the deteriorating state of their town and key industry, but only uses it as context to its subjects rather than sincerely diving into its impact.

All of which comes down to one major question, why is this story worth telling? It will likely be divisive whether people see this as an eye-opening view into the rampant fascism that still exists or as giving that prejudice a platform. Unfortunately, it seems as though it doesn’t stand strongly enough in the former’s corner, the perspective is quite sympathetic towards this group. It takes the view of looking for the good in everyone, and it’s going to be entirely up to each viewer whether they show enough redeeming qualities to make that worth it. The directorial and editing styles let all of that speak for itself, it’s simple and intimate, which you’d imagine was contradictory for a film with such toxicity but it works well. Nikolay Stefanov was allowed right to the heart of this group, entering the inner circle with men openly emblazoned with Nazi tattoos, it was a risky move.

No Place for You in Our Town explores the modern presence of fascism within a community in decline, clinging to their key source of hope and entertainment, their local football team. It shows how one man with such a toxic persona changes as he’s temporarily pulled away from that world. Stefanov gets a unique and extremely close view, but ultimately it doesn’t prove unquestionably that it was worth giving such a prejudiced group a platform. There isn’t enough to show that their redeemable qualities outweigh their rampant racism and aggression.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

Reviewed as part of Sheffield DocFest 2022

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