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“We understand how you came to this war.” Vera Krichevskaya on Russian television and the film F @ ck this job

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Vera Krichevskaya is a Russian film director, former creative producer of 24 Doc TV channel, co-founder of Dozhd TV channel. Her feature-length documentaries include Citizen Poet, Too Free, and The Case of Sobchak.

Painting “Too Free Man” about Boris Nemtsov available on the site until the fourth of May.

Krichevskaya’s latest film F @ ck this job through the life story of the head of the TV channel “Rain” Natalia Sindeeva tells the recent history of Russia: presidential castling, trial of Pussy Riot, Bolotnaya, LGBT propaganda law, Malaysian Boeing crash, Nemtsov’s murder, Navalny’s investigations, the 2018 protests, the case of Ivan Golunov. The picture shows the events that brought the TV channel and the country closer to disaster. “Rain” was first disconnected from cable broadcasting, and soon given the status of “foreign agent”.

The film has a bitter epilogue. After the start of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office demanded that access to the TV channel be restricted. On the same day, Roskomnadzor blocked the channel’s website. On March 3, Natalia Sindeeva announced the suspension of broadcasting, after her speech on the YouTube channel “Rain” was the premiere of the film F @ ck this job.

The film has toured many European film festivals, including CPH: DOX in Copenhagen, Pordenone Docs Fest in Italy and Docaviv in Tel Aviv.

We met with the director and talked about working on the film.

– When did you come up with the idea to make a film about “Rain”?

– I decided to make a movie in May 2019. It was stagnation. Everything that could be done to get as many Russians as possible to watch “Rain”, to receive information, was done. “Rain” has always occupied a place in the top three most quoted media, but more than 60-65 thousand subscribers have never been. And when you look at this figure in a country with a population of 140 million, you realize what a request for information and news there is in that country. Zero!

And at the same time “Rain” made the largest base of media subscribers. No one has ever had more, neither Vedomosti, nor anyone else. At that time, Natasha had debts that I knew about. I was in Moscow, we talked to her, and I asked, “How do you see yourself in three years? Still sitting in the corner in your headphones and deciphering your broadcasts?” She said, “No, I definitely don’t see myself that way in three years. And I don’t want to go to work at all.”

I was shocked then, because she was always the most religious person in this business. I went to London, and when I returned, I decided to make a movie. The first round of interviews was on June 12, Russia’s Independence Day, and the day before, Ivan Golunov’s case took place. On that day, Vladimir Putin presented state awards in the Kremlin on one screen, and on all other screens there were detentions of people who came out to protest against the arrest of Ivan Golunov.

– Nevertheless, your film has a large amount of chronic material until 2019. Was it hard to find him?

– Rain TV is a group of people in love with themselves. Narcissism is an integral part of the team, so from the first day, when there was nothing at all, everyone was endlessly filming themselves. It was before Instagram, before selfies, before video blogs. It all started in 2008. We called and asked to bring everything on our phones and computers. After a short time, I realized that I had seven terabytes of material. And in those years the quality of the material was low and the files weighed very little.

– Was it easy to find funding for such a project?

– At first I filmed everything with my own money. Then I made a teaser, wrote the script and started sending it to different producers, to the movie markets. She applied for the development of the project. We received the first grant from the large British non-profit organization Docsociety, and then we had German producers. And now the rights to show the film have been bought in almost all European countries. But despite this, the three main fees have not yet been covered.

– So there is no Russian funding in the film? Did you ask for help in Russia at all – or was it fundamentally important for you not to have Russian producers?

– As soon as I started, I wanted to get a grant. I had several meetings with oligarchs whose funds finance Russian cinema, but they refused me everything. And then I realized that if they agreed, my film would have no destiny. Because a movie, for example, about democracy in Brazil cannot be made with Brazilian money. Then you automatically become a tool in someone’s hands. Fortunately, all these people refused me. Although I’m sure the two organizations are a little upset about this now, their owners are on the sanctions list, and participating in the project could help present their position to the public.

– One of the most recurring tricks in your film is the polyscreen, where we see the contrast between what “Rain” broadcasts and federal channels. These shots very eloquently and clearly explain to the Western viewer how Russian television has been organized all these years.

– Now, finally, they began to understand all this. Although the first two or three weeks of the war no one believed. This trick was in my head at the very beginning. Because we have to show reality and its distortion. If you look at these shots, you get the impression that we live in two different countries.

– After the start of the war in Ukraine, the border between the political and the personal has disappeared, as has the case of your heroine Natalia Sindeeva. When did this border cease to exist for you personally?

– My personal and political have always been the same. That’s how my life turned out. And I don’t like it because it interferes with life. I am very dependent on what is happening around me, not inside me. In 1991, when we all saw “Swan Lake” on TV, I was going to go to the last class of school, but for a year I worked as a reporter for the newspaper “Smena” in St. Petersburg. On August 19, I went to the editorial office of our newspaper and stayed there until the end of the coup.

I hung out a tricolor in the window, then a censor came to the editorial office and asked to remove the flag, and I argued with him. We published a newspaper, my colleagues distributed it around the city. Since then, my personal and political have merged and never separated. I’m trying to figure out if I have a chance to start anew, to cut it all off. Because it is impossible to live the life of a country that wants war, wants to kill people, that forbids the slogan “No to war.” I tried to break this connection in 2014, when I left after the annexation of Crimea. But this is not for me, but for my children. I didn’t want them to have emotional connections like I did.

I have friends who live in Russia who do not agree with the war. They are strangers there, they are much worse than us. They are hostages. When I read that someone mined a bridge or a field. I think that Vladimir Putin mined my friends who are in Russia. I think that many of my friends will have a hard time taking the oath now. It will not be possible to continue living there without swearing.

There is no longer this boundary between the personal and the political. If you are responsible for your life, if you respect yourself, if you want to decide for yourself what your life should be like, you cannot be out of politics. Because politics is a set of rules that society lives by, you can’t live outside of those rules. And your task is to make these rules at least do not interfere with your life, and ideally – to make your life better, more interesting. Natasha’s story beautifully describes this. She herself admitted that she had never voted before December 2011, because everything was fine anyway. And such an awakening has now come to many. But what a price for this awakening!

– When you started making documentaries, you said that it became a refuge for journalists.

“There are no shelters left now.” There is no way to get away from the answer, because we talk during the war. People should not die, rockets should not fly. It’s so obvious! But, unfortunately, not for those who support Putin. Where is compassion for death? Where is the empathy? Where is this compassion, it seemed to me, the most basic property of the Russian soul?

– You are now traveling around Europe with your film and are a mouthpiece for Russian free journalism. How does the audience react to your story?

– Despite all the rumors about Russophobia, we are received very warmly in every European country. I see how people accept and understand the film. It seems to me that all the ideas have been conveyed. It is no coincidence that we have been engaged in storytelling and editing for a long time. I edited with foreign editors, precisely because I wanted everything to be accurate and clear to Europeans. And now the public is telling us, “We understand how you came to this war.” For them, this is an explanation, but it’s just too late.

– The phrase of the journalist Timur Olevsky “On *** such work!” became the title of your painting. He shouted at her during a report from the Maidan. It turns out that it all started in Ukraine and it ends.

– Yes, that’s how life twisted this plot, and I just snatched it.

– Were there any other versions of the name?

– No, there were producers who were against such a name. In some fears, where the word f @ ck does not pass, it is renamed.

– Some in the Russian media translated the film “To hell with such work.”

– This is their free translation, it is impossible to call otherwise, not like Timur. This is mitigation. I do not accept this translation. I had to rename the film for the Ministry of Culture to get a license and called it “Damn Work”. In several countries where the word for the letter F cannot be used, the film is called Tango with Putin. I myself suggested it back in December, before the war it sounded impressive, but now it is impossible to imagine anything with Putin.

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