While it’s not ideal to be an LGBTQ person in any country in the world (homo and transphobia is still prevalent even in places where LGBTQ people have full human rights and protection within the law), in Russia it is particularly difficult. The country recently brought an ‘LGBT propaganda’ bill into law, which prohibits people from discussing pro-LGBT viewpoints in public for the fear of ‘corrupting’ children.
Not only does this law mean that Russia’s LGBT citizens aren’t allowed to put together things such as Pride events, or LGBT rights rallies, but it also leaves them vulnerable for other anti-LGBT persecution. For example, it’s a well documented fact that Russian law enforcement agencies will look the other way when LGBT people (or those perceived as LGBT) are being attacked, or they will even carry out these attacks themselves, asking for bribes to leave them alone.
We hear about these stories in the news; general footage of protests and fights on streets, but it is very rare that we actually see the real effects of Russia’s intolerance. New documentary Olya’s Love wants to change that, as the movie follows dreadlocked Moscow activist Olya as she navigates the homophobic waters.
Some of the film follows Olya and her partner Galiya, with the two having gotten together after Olya had been engaged to a man, having wanted to stick to the norm. In some scenes together they are completely taken with each other and in love (in one particularly sweet moment, we see Galiya adjusting Olya’s dreads) but each is viewed with the realisation that they could be arrested for just being who they are. For example, the other side of Olya’s Love shows a private LGBT meeting being met with an anti-LGBT protest, in which the protestors chant that their identities are unnatural. In others we see violent scuffles erupt; horrifying scenes are activists peacefully walk with rainbow flags in their hands.
Olya’s Love is a short documentary, however, as it’s just over an hour. But in that hour you get a personal look at what it’s like to be LGBT in Russia – minus the politics and the news headlines. It’s just an honest, albeit upsetting depiction of how Russian LGBT life really is.
Olya’s Love has been airing at film festivals but it is also available on Vimeo On Demand.