One of the most important films in the DOC NYC Festival 2021 (November 10-18) (https://www.docnyc.net/2021-festival/) is F@ck This Job. Thematically, the film concerns the press and media speaking truth to power in totalitarian countries which censor the facts so that the ruling regimes can maintain control while they grift their countries of billions of dollars. Journalists must decide if they should allow themselves to be silenced. They must decide whether or not to fight to represent the truth to the nations’ citizens, thereby risking their careers and lives.
In the end one asks is it worth it to be a hero no one recognizes or cares about? But sometimes people do care and sometimes, one can make an incredible difference thought that was not their initial intention. F@ck This Job is both an inspiration and a cautionary tale for journalists everywhere, especially in countries touting themselves as democracies.
Director Vera Krichevskaya chronicles Russia from Medvedev’s presidency to Putin’s changing the Russian constitution (2018) to maintain power until 2036, something he swore he would never do. Simultaneously, the director reveals in tandem the parallel story of Natasha Sindeeva, a former music radio producer who looks to upgrade to a media manager and owner of a TV station after she marries the rich banker Sasha who bankrolls her.
As the film opens in 2008, Krichevskaya, who has direct access to Natasha and Sasha as a friend and also a participant in their TV venture, intercuts the beautiful opulent wedding of Natasha and Sasha and the happiness of Medvedev’s election for Russians in what was then a thriving nation. All is bright pink and as rosy as Natasha’s pink Porsche, that zips happily around the streets of Moscow.
In its brilliance, as the film melds two stories we understand the near cinema verité unveiling of an incredible history of a decade of events in Russia. One story mirrors the Russian citizens’ initial belief in a bright future with Medvedev. It is a vision which turns to dust as Russians realize that Putin is holding the reins of power from the shadows and is increasing his repression against journalists, Ukrainians, opposition leaders, protestors and anyone who stands against his grifting theft and accumulation of power and wealth at the expense of Russia’s prosperity.
Likewise, Natasha’s bright beginnings founding her TV station, the independent TVRain (Dozhd) media outlet hits a turning point. Her vision to create independent, light, glamorous media, since she had come from such an elegant universe as a music producer becomes swamped. Ironically, she labels the TV station the Optimistic Channel to signify Russia’s bright, rosy future and to forecast her skyrocketing success. But her notions upend when serendipitously, “Optimistic Channel” Dozhd TV becomes the foremost truth-telling station in all of Russia, and a danger to Putin and his underlings at the United Russia Party.
In her yearning to “be different” and current and “independent,” Natasha goes “against the grain.” She hires opposition reporters, minorities and LGBTQ journalists who are unique and fearsome. As a result, the audience loves the Optimistic Channel because they are not “afraid” of the truth. The station has many followers. Their “in the moment reporters” do “live feeds” of devastation, i.e. of the Ukraine war, of clashes of protestors and the police, of upheavals that reveal in real time Putin’s decline in popularity. No state media channel or any media channel for that matter covers such events which global news then picks up. The bright rosy future of Russia is indeed in the toilet and the oppressors then turn against Dozhd TV to make it impossible for them to cover their stories on the air and criticize Putin’s regime via interviews with Alexander Navalny, Putin’s chief opposition leader that Russians support.
Natasha’s life’s work becomes her daily obsession for success as the only place where Russians can go to experience political and sexual freedom as an independent news station beyond Putin’s control. For example, during this unprecedented decade of modern Russian history of Putin’s growing oppression, Dozhd covers the war in the Ukraine, Navalny’s anti-corruption investigations, and Putin’s and the Russian state’s increasing lies and propaganda to smash Navalny’s gaining popularity.
Events move to the point where Dozhd itself becomes the daily news as they broadcast being evicted and shut down. Their lives are in jeopardy, their financial ruin eminent, all in front of a watching public. Natasha, her staff and the station are evicted and move from place to place trying to find somewhere to broadcast from . This happens a number of times. They flee with their equipment. At one point they continue streaming the news from Sasha’s apartment. Then finally, when all else fails and they have no place to physically call Dozhd home, they take the videos of their live feeds and put them on YouTube. By this point in time, Natasha who was wealthy has lost much of everything and Sasha is moving for a divorce.
Vera Krichevskaya’s video clips of what happens during the frenetic times of wheel and woe, evictions, financial losses, being taken off the air, are intercut with Putin’s proclamations that he is censoring no one and is not jeopardizing Dozhd TV. The director’s editing and footage are superb as is her paralleling the life of Natasha with Russia throughout the decade. Both the populace and Natasha have had their eyes opened and one encourages the other. If not for the Russian people’s need for the truth, there would be no Dozhd TV and the US and EU nations would not know what is happening inside Russia.
Significantly, the director reveals how Natasha evolves as a human being to understand what is important, what is heroic and what is vital. Fighting on the frontlines of the war between Global Truth and Russia’s Repressive Propaganda and malign influence, Natasha and her team put journalists who would be lazy, cowed, narcissistic and selfish to shame. Dozhd’s team risked their lives, lost money and love relationships in pursuing a greater purpose, resistance to Putin’s lies and propaganda. Would all journalists do the same and not be hacks for their editors.
When nothing is left, one knows the value of what is priceless, something which totalitarian governments and their leaders greatly fear and will kill to prevent its coming to the light. The documented truth. Getting the truth out is paramount in a culture where the state media produces only lies to fuel the wealth and power of the totalitarian, autocratic killing Russian regime under Putin. The same goes for other such regimes around the world. Krichevskaya’s film sounds the alarm loudly and clearly. For the press to be vital, it must be willing to put itself in jeopardy to get to the truth. If the media only exists for itself, it is useless, especially to a citizenry that intends to remain free.
VIMEO LINK: https://vimeo.com/590692770
The award winning F@ck This Job is a must-see film. For tickets and times go to the DOCNYC website. https://www.docnyc.net/program/?alpha=abc The Q and A with producers, director and subjects will be this Friday, November 12 at 7:15 pm Cinépolis Chelsea in NYC.