a timely portrait of one of Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics


Russia’s Dozhd TV channel, launched in 2010, was originally dubbed “the optimistic channel” – a perspective it struggled to maintain from day one, given Putin’s state control over all the major networks in the country and the insidious oppressions of independent broadcasting. In Russian, “Dozhd” means “rain”, which is a bit more like him. The documentary [email protected] This Job focuses on Natalya Sindeyeva, the CEO of this struggling company and the face most Russians associate with her.

After rising through the ranks of the Russian media quagmire and becoming a staple of glamorous magazines, the ballet-trained Sindeyeva married banker Sasha Vinokourov in 2006, a descendant of oligarchs who became Dozhd’s main investor. The channel’s first goals were to connect with Moscow‘s youth in a dizzying and ambitious way: Sindeyeva drove to the office in her hot pink Porsche Cayenne and kicked off the channel with a video of herself dancing under the rain, barefoot, on the roof of the building. . More than half of its staff, significantly, were gay and sought to fight the attrition of LGBTQ+ rights under Putin.

Everyone’s hopes rested on Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s president from 2008 to 2012, who was considered – all things considered – a modernizing force. Yet when Sindeyeva showed her around the station in 2011, some accused her of selling out. One of them was the director of this film, Vera Krichevskaya, a producer in the Dozhd newsroom who quit after a year.

After Putin’s reinstallation in 2012, Sindeyeva joined her channel in the wave of protests against the rigged elections and was branded an enemy of the state, with her face on propaganda posters everywhere. (The film takes its insistent title from an expletive we hear on camera, from one of its reporters at the heart of these troubles.)

In 2014, Dozhd was removed from all cable and satellite networks in Russia, after a talk show about the siege of Leningrad – speculating on whether surrendering to the Nazis might have been justifiable – was deemed unpatriotic. . The channel lost its 10 million viewers and had to switch to an online subscription model to continue.

Keep it up, with Sindeyeva bowed but not beaten. In the film, she talks to Krichevskaya about the fine line between journalistic professionalism and human integrity, admitting her propensity throughout her career to favor the latter.

You wish such conversations would go deeper, as they might have completed a particular dimension that the film lacks. As a critic-turned-partisan who also narrates, Krichevskaya is the right kind of observer here on paper. But there is too little airing of her own opinions when leaving, when she had no confidence in the true independence of Dozhd.

She obviously returned to Sindeyeva’s side and now respects everything that this stubborn voice of opposition aimed to achieve. Knowing about this Damascene conversion, even being allowed to probe it along the way, might have made this precious portrait an excellent one.

In select theaters from February 25


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