Eline Flipse (Netherlands, World Spectrum)
Thursday, May 5, 9:45 p.m.
Cumberland 3 (159 Cumberland Street)
Saturday, May 7, 1:30 p.m.
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)
There’s a lot of blah blah blah (to pilfer a Ke$ha-ism) about the end of print media and how blogs and websites and citizen reporting are doing a better, or at least speedier job, of delivering news to the masses. (Sorry, print media.) But what about at the far-flung fringes of civilization, where cellphones are still novel and the word “blogosphere” sounds as stupid and made-up as it probably should?
In the remote village of Uljanovsk, Russia, Andrej Shkolni and his wife self-publish Our Newspaper. A former employee of the state paper, The Leninist (whose editor-in-chief admits on camera that he has difficulty smiling), Shkolni went rogue and began publishing news that was relevant and meaningful to his local community. Where The Leninist prides itself on connecting local events to their historical backdrop (that old material maxim of Marxist historiography), Our Newspaper is chock-o-block with local colour: stories about UFOs, lost dogs, or dedicated doctors who cycle through the driving cold to make house calls.
But it’s not all “Talk of the Town” fluff for Shkolni. Flipse follows him as he digs deeper into a crisis surrounding the village’s water supply drying up, leading our savvy reporter into a web of intrigue and backroom politics worthy of Chinatown. His investigation earns the ire of local authorities who threaten to shut down Our Newspaper, stressing the importance of independent voices against a national-historical backdrop that has favoured the propagandist dissemination of state-approved “news.” (Yeesh, now who sounds like a Marxist?) At 58 minutes, Our Newspaper (the film) is unsatisfying brief. But considering Shkolni’s seriously delimited beat (again: lost dogs), it’s brevity is fitting.