As highlighted most famously by Pussy Riot, when it comes to same-sex relationships Russia is far from progressive. Indeed, the state’s close ties to the church mean that members of LGBTQ+ communities face a number of challenges. This is amplified in the Chechen Republic, where Islam is the dominant religion and Ramzan Kadyrov’s tyranny is given free reign by Moscow as long as he tows the line. It’s a closed country with a history of separatist struggle.
David France’s (How to Survive a Plague, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson) new film, Welcome to Chechnya, follows a Russian human rights group who risk their lives to rescue LGBTQ+ people from the oppressive regime. With unfettered access, the team follow the activists as they go about their work; on rescue missions, in Russian safe-houses and campaigning to shine a light on the atrocities being carried out ‘behind closed doors’.
Welcome to Chechnya is one of the most important films you’ll see this year. The shocking reality is that there are essentially concentration camps operating in a European country where being gay is as good as being a death sentence, should you be caught. Chechnya is an unholy mix of religious intolerance, authoritarian dictatorship and minority oppression. David France’s new film shines a light on this persecution and will hopefully act as a catalyst for change.
Welcome to Chechnya is streaming as part of Sheffield Doc/Fest.