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By Phil Hall | April 13, 2014

One of the more troubling news stories surrounding this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi was the status of gays and lesbians in Russia. Although homosexuality was not tolerated during the Soviet Union, the post-Cold War years saw an even greater hostility as political and religious factions sought to scapegoat this demographic through media attacks, legislation and an environment that encouraged violent assaults on LGBT Russians.

This documentary provides a series of interviews with men and women in Russia that openly identify their sexual orientation – no mean feat, considering that such proclamations have resulted in rejection by families, discrimination and threats against their security. Some people downplay their lifestyle, while others – most notably, the organizers of an LGBT film festival – attempt to force a conversation with a wider population that views homosexuality as a Western perversion.

The film also introduces a Russian parliamentarian who crafted the so-called “gay propaganda” legislation created the international furor over Russian policies towards this segment of its population. But the real surprise here is that the film has been crafted with great maturity and intelligence by Michael Lucas, a filmmaker who earned his notoriety for crafting a series of somewhat dubious gay pornography flicks. The Russian-born Lucas appears on camera to conduct interviews with his non-English-speaking subjects, and he handles this task with the professionalism of a seasoned journalist.

This disturbing yet compelling film is a must-see for anyone with an interest in today’s Russia and the threat to LGBT people around the world.

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