Film on Anti-Gay Chechnya Available on BBC Russia

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday November 16, 2020

Ramzan Kadyrov
Ramzan Kadyrov  (Source:AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev)

A critically acclaimed documentary film on the anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya has been made available to Russian audiences on the BBC's Russian platform, The Moscow Times reports.

"Welcome to Chechnya" by American filmmaker David France, the Times says, "traces a Moscow-based LGBT association's attempts to exfiltrate gay Chechens to safety. The film pioneers deepfake face-swapping technology to disguise the identities of his subjects fearing for their safety."

Since its June 30 debut on HBO, "Welcome to Chechnya" has won several awards including the Sundance Film Festival for documentary editing, and the Times notes, as well as several for France's direction and production work.

Since 2017, reports have surfaced regarding the torture and killing of Chechens suspected of being gay. Chechen Republic dictator Ramzan Kadyrov and the region's leaders have denied the existence of LGBTQ people in the region, going as far as to condone "honor killings" of LGBTQ people — that is, allowing families to kill one of their own if they are suspected of being gay. France began filming for the documentary in August 2017.

The Times notes that "Moscow-based LGBT activists have helped more than 150 sexual minorities flee Chechnya and apply for political asylum." In Russia, same-sex sexual activity isn't a crime. However, pro-LGBTQ advocates contend that laws limiting information on the oppressed community — labeled dismissively as "propaganda" — has created hostility and a propensity for homophobic attacks.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

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