Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Timely: Welcome to Chechnya
As the stalemate between the Russian army and the freedom fighters of Ukraine continues, we’d like to take a moment here at screen gems to point out something that gets lost in most media coverage: the effect of the invasion on queer people.
Russia, under the autocracy of Vladamir Putin, has a terrifying record when it comes to the persecution of LGBTQ people, in particular, gay men. For a portrait of what Russian control would mean for the queer population of Ukraine, look no further than the neighboring Russian republic of Chechnya.
Filmmaker David France documented the horrors of Putin’s gay purges in his harrowing documentary Welcome to Chechnya. France spent several months traveling in the nation-state, as well as Russia and Eastern Europe, documenting the Rainbow Railroad; that is, an underground network of activists helping LGBTQ people escape to the Western world. The film argues that Putin has specifically targeted the queer community in Russia as a way of consolidating his power and deflecting criticism. Worse, his scapegoating of the community recalls the lowest moments of Stalin’s Great Purge: people endure torture, harassment, and often simply disappear.
Much of the plot of Welcome to Chechnya follows the story of Maxim Lapunov, a Chechen refugee trying to escape the Russian sphere with his boyfriend. France uses digital technology to conceal his face for most of the film. That only adds a layer of intrigue to the proceedings: James Bond and Jason Bourne never had this kind of impact. This movie features a real-life spy story unfolding right before our eyes.
And make no mistake, the stakes are life-and-death. It’s difficult to overstate the risk France and his subjects took in making this film. The director had to pose as a soccer fan to complete his travels. Had anyone discovered his true intentions, he would have faced certain prison time. The queer people he depicts in the film, on the other hand, would likely have faced torture and death. Several moments in the film have a level of suspense rarely seen in the movies. We know France gets out alive, but what about his friends? Try to watch and not hold your breath in places.
Welcome to Chechnya details the true horrors of Putin’s ongoing war on LGBTQ people, perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis in modern Europe. Behind the new iron curtain, a new Great Purge has begun.
Streams on HBO Max.
I don’t know anyone who says it doesn’t matter.
And yes I know a whopping amount of diverse people.
Really? Several Republicans are making the case to their pathetic, uneducated “know nothing outside their cities” followers that we should stay out of the Russia/Ukraine war because it has no impact on us and we have our own problems here. Of course the hillbilly supporters nod their heads in agreement.
So yes, THE IGNORANCE IS OUT THERE.
The stupidest and lowest class people are not the “hillbillies” who vote Republican, but the inner city Welfare and Medicaid recipients who all vote Democrat. Their IQs are smaller than their sneaker sizes – the very sneakers that their Welfare – meaning the American taxpayers – pays for.
Plus: Gallup did a poll years ago of ex-cons – nearly 98% said that if they had the opportunity to vote, they’d vote for the Democrats. So, you see: Poor, low-life inner city dwellers and criminals prefer the Dems.
Perhaps the biggest domestic problem is that folks like you exist.
Except you’re the ones that don’t care about the war. How soul*less. You couldn’t stoop any lower. Tho if you could you would.
Re low IQ: the Dems control the house senate and presidency. Doesn’t seem like the Dems have the IQ problem.
Here’s how smart you are: most “welfare” goes to corporations. And farmers. And the military industrial complex. I know, heaven forbid some black mother get social supports to help improve her life and the life of her children. You seem to have a lot of resentment, judging from your postings. I have no idea who hurt you, but the torment of anguish is obvious.
Right wing Republican troll trying to deflect from the Republican party’s support of Putin.
Also, notice how these foreign trolls still use the 1980s Rush Limbaugh attacks? “Inner City Welfare Recipients”. Well sweetie, all of those “Inner cities” are the most expensive places to live in America now. DC, New York, SF, LA Chicago? Areas that used to be poor now rent out a studio apartment for $3,000 a month. Meanwhile, all of those “Welfare recipients” are in white towns in Kentucky and West Virginia.
But it’s cute you keep tying to spew out your raci-sm and think nobody notices.
As I understand it the Chechen mercenaries who tried invading Ukraine along with Poo-Tin’s war crime brigade on an mission to kill the Ukrainian President were promptly wiped off the face of the planet along with their gang leader.
Yep and the same evil chechen leader that was responsible for the gay purge was killed. If that’s not poetic justice I don’t know what is.
Yes Poo-Tin, that’s what I call him. Put him in the Poo TIn where he belongs.
Really insensitive, bad headline. I had to check to see if the author’s name might be “Karen…”. Or maybe they use a service for the headlines.
I think the headline is responding to the reader’s possible indifference. It’s not that hard to believe that there are lots of people out there that casually don’t give a sh*t.
People have their own problems, so I don’t blame anyone for checking out from what could become the central event that sparks WW3 and nuclear apocalypse as the result of some Russian Boomer’s feelings of inadequacy.
Ukraine matters because real people are suffering, and will continue to suffer. Things can matter without consuming your entire emotional and intellectual bandwidth, especially when life is getting harder in ostensibly peaceful and stable countries as well.
So now we don’t care about Ukraine unless we watch the movie you were paid to plug?
I’ll get right on it. That’ll for sure stop WW3.
Nowhere in the article does it either say or imply that “we” don’t care about Ukraine if we don’t watch the movie. did you read it?
Yes Kudos to the Rainbow Railroad.
However, we need to be mindful of the role the Russian Orthodox Church has in Putin position of power and his invasion of Ukraine
Patriarch Kirill thinks the invasion is justified because of the Pride parades!!
This abomination of a man needs to be held accountable and his evil.
The welfare Queen argument is about as real as the old let’s give tax cuts to the rich so they will create jobs.
If Marcy could think beyond those lies she would vote for Democrats.
Only the sick GQP are the ones who say this doesn’t matter. Even Moscow Mitch is changing his tune not bc he cares about ppl but about his political future. He even had to admonish Majorie Taylor Biggot and that wheelchair Hitler Madison who both praised Putin. The GQP is sick. Then again they gave us a Putin wannabe dictator in Trump