In the rough, remote Russian town where Lenin was born, a brave journalist has launched an independent newspaper produced on a computer in his lounge and delivered by hand. A darkly humorous portrait of a brave venture.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2012
The Russian city of Ulyanovsk is named for its most famous son, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin. The town’s official newspaper is, of course, The Leninist. Exasperated by the four-page state mouthpiece, journalist Andrei Shkolny has launched an independent paper, produced on a computer in his lounge. It’s a brave venture. Our Newspaper is committed to covering the stories The Leninist won’t touch: the villages cut off by broken roads; the communities that have not had running water for months; the pollution spewed into the river by the local butter factory. But even the tenacious Shkolny has his limits. “I wouldn’t write a negative article about the traffic police,” he says as he drives the crumbling road between villages. “They would take away my licence, take away my car.” The austere, unforgiving region is exquisitely captured in Eline Flipse’s film. Its sombre, darkly humorous residents – their faces as weathered as the landscape around them – might have stepped out of the pages of Chekhov.
After a gruelling day, Shkolny crouches over a fishing hole drilled many metres through the snow. “I’m prohibited from doing legal things,” he says. “That’s why I just want to go somewhere and get a fishing rod.” He’s thought about abandoning the paper, and the country. “I want to start my own business. Fishing tourism. I’ll supply the tourists with a boat, rod, and bait, and when they catch something, I’ll prepare it for them. In New Zealand. That’s my dream.” — TM