In a new series of documentary videos, Vice exposes the shocking and disturbing reality of LGBT life in Russia. Part 1 of “Young and Gay in Putin’s Russia” was just released yesterday, January 13; while it is incredibly well done and the interviews are compelling, be forewarned that it is difficult to watch.
“When Russian President Vladimir Putin banned gay ‘propaganda’ in June last year, Russia’s LGBT community went from being a stigmatized fringe group to full-blown enemies of the state,” Vice states in the video description. “Homophobia becoming legislation means it’s now not only accepted in Russia but actively encouraged, which has led to a depressing rise in homophobic attacks and murders.”
The first installment of the series covers some of the horrible discrimination and attacks that LGBT Russians have been exposed to since Putin’s law. The filmmakers take a ride with a Moscow taxi driver for gay passengers (Russia’s taxi services are segregated), discuss the rampancy of homophobic vigilante groups, and introduce us to Yulia, a lesbian who runs LGBT self-defense classes.
“We’re in Moscow to find out what it’s like to be young and gay in Putin’s Russia,” the film’s director, Milène Larsson, says in the video. “Because gays have suddenly been made enemies of the state, and this has led to a rise of homophobia and some pretty horrific attacks and murders.
“In June, an anti-gay propaganda law was passed countrywide, which bans telling minors that homosexuality is normal,” Milène continues. “This means that if you’re 16 and you just realized that you’re gay, you have nowhere to turn for support because it’s now illegal for parents, teachers, and even psychologists to tell you that it’s okay to be gay.”
Al Brown, head of video at Vice UK, says that the videos were produced due to insufficient coverage from traditional media.
“Vice prides itself in documenting the stories that aren’t being extensively covered by traditional media, and more specifically, those that affect young people. ‘Young and Gay in Putin’s Russia’ is an unflinching look at the situation out there—we’re honored to be working alongside Stonewall in trying to bring such serious issues to people’s attention.”
LGBT advocacy organization Stonewall has partnered with Vice and will promote the series, and will launch a joint media campaign for the film series.
“When Vice showed us the film we were extremely impressed by their sensitive and detailed portrayal of what is a very complex issue, and that they spoke extensively to LGB&T activists on the ground in Russia,” said Stonewall president Sam Dick. “The film touches upon a number of critical issues that Stonewall is campaigning around and we feel it should help raise awareness of the situation in the context of wider human rights abuses that affect the whole country.”
The film will be released in five installments, which will be available on both the Vice website and their YouTube account. Part 1 of the film can be viewed below: