State media really isn’t media. It is PR for their regime masters. They do not reporter the news, they slant it and spike it if necessary. Putin thought he had rid himself of the last vestiges of an independent media until Natalya Sindeyeva founded Dozhd. Originally, she had something more pop culture-ish in mind, but she discovered her calling when Dozhd started reporting stories no other Russian outlet would touch. Vera Krichevskaya documents the struggle to keep Dozhd on the air in F@ck This Job, which screens as part of this year’s DOC NYC.
In the 2000s, the hard-partying Sindeyeva married Aleksandr Vinokurov, a blue-blooded financial tycoon, who could buy her anything. She decided she wanted a TV station. Initially, Dozhd was probably intended to be something like post-music video MTV, but when they covered a mysterious explosion all the other networks ignored, a lightbulb clicked on.
A flirtation with “President” Medvedev led to a temporary break with Krichevskaya (yet ironically, the figurehead comes out of the doc looking relatively moderate compared to Putin). However, coverage of the subsequent election protests and disavowed Russian military incursions into Ukraine soon re-established Dozhd as Russia’s independent media voice. In the process, they earned millions of viewers and a concerted harassment campaign orchestrated by the Kremlin.
At times, Sindeyeva can be her own worst enemy. There is no question her privileged background sometimes renders her a bit tone deaf. However, that is also what makes her a compelling figure. She could have partied the years away in comfort, but instead she and Vinokurov have dedicated their fortune and risked their liberty to expose the truth.
F@TJ is rather overwhelming, especially for those of us who really believe in a free press.
Krichevskaya’s doc should be required viewing for all dissident journalists, because it really lays bare the tactics employed against Dozhd. All the dubious corporate journalists in America who have been pleading for internet censorship should also be forced to watch it, to get a taste of what they might get. As a society, we need to recommit ourselves to the principles of free speech and a free press, without caveats or exceptions. This film helps make that case. Krichevskaya’s portrait of a network under pressure is indeed a revealing case history, but it is also a surprisingly tense real-life thriller. Highly recommended, F@ck this Job screens in-person 11/12 & 11/18 and online 11/13-11/28.