Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Indiewire logo
5 LGBT Interest Films That Might Be Heading To Sundance Next January 5 LGBT Interest Films That Might Be Heading To Sundance Next January Watch Kirk Cameron Tell You How To Witness To Someone Who Is Gay Watch Kirk Cameron Tell You How To Witness To Someone Who Is Gay John Cameron Mitchell Returning To 'Hedwig' On Broadway This January!!! John Cameron Mitchell Returning To 'Hedwig' On Broadway This January!!! Watch: Meryl Streep, Nora Ephron, Emma Thompson and Elaine May Salute The Late, Great Mike Nichols Watch: Meryl Streep, Nora Ephron, Emma Thompson and Elaine May Salute The Late, Great Mike Nichols Dirty Looks Announces Curatorial Lineup For Biennial Initiative 'On Location' Dirty Looks Announces Curatorial Lineup For Biennial Initiative 'On Location' First Look: James Franco and Zachary Quinto as Boyfriends In Gus Van Sant-Produced 'Michael' First Look: James Franco and Zachary Quinto as Boyfriends In Gus Van Sant-Produced 'Michael' Listen To The Entire Soundtrack For Xavier Dolan's 'Mommy' Listen To The Entire Soundtrack For Xavier Dolan's 'Mommy' The 10 Best Tina Belcher Moments On 'Bob's Burgers' The 10 Best Tina Belcher Moments On 'Bob's Burgers' Let These Wise Words Meryl Streep Lives By Usher You Into September Let These Wise Words Meryl Streep Lives By Usher You Into September The 5 Best Gay and Lesbian Romantic Comedies On Netflix The 5 Best Gay and Lesbian Romantic Comedies On Netflix Watch: Gay Porn Star Diego Sans Releases NSFW Video For Beyonce's 'Pretty Hurts' Watch: Gay Porn Star Diego Sans Releases NSFW Video For Beyonce's 'Pretty Hurts' 14 Films On Netflix To Watch At Your 2014 Pride Party 14 Films On Netflix To Watch At Your 2014 Pride Party Reader's Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Television Series Reader's Poll: The 25 Most Important LGBT Television Series 'Game of Thrones,' Sex and HBO: Where Did It Go Wrong For TV's Sexual Pioneers? 'Game of Thrones,' Sex and HBO: Where Did It Go Wrong For TV's Sexual Pioneers? Jesse and Beca are Going to Be Reunited in 'Pitch Perfect 2,' Plus 5 More Reasons We're Excited About This Sequel Jesse and Beca are Going to Be Reunited in 'Pitch Perfect 2,' Plus 5 More Reasons We're Excited About This Sequel Amber Heard and Johnny Depp Are Officially Engaged But We Need To Talk About Bisexuality Amber Heard and Johnny Depp Are Officially Engaged But We Need To Talk About Bisexuality Read Sally Field's Impassioned Open Letter About Her Gay Son Read Sally Field's Impassioned Open Letter About Her Gay Son Why Sexy Gay Love Story 'Free Fall' Is Not Just a German 'Brokeback Mountain' Why Sexy Gay Love Story 'Free Fall' Is Not Just a German 'Brokeback Mountain' Watch a Teenage Boy Find a Stack of Gay Porn In Adam Baran's Adorable Short Film 'Jackpot' Watch a Teenage Boy Find a Stack of Gay Porn In Adam Baran's Adorable Short Film 'Jackpot' Ranking the House Down:
 The Queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race, from Worst to Best (Part Six: The Top 10!) Ranking the House Down:
 The Queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race, from Worst to Best (Part Six: The Top 10!)

With Russia's Biggest Hit Opening in the US, All Eyes Are On the Country's Film Industry and Anti-LGBT Laws

By Casey Cipriani | /Bent February 28, 2014 at 2:32PM

Now, with the Olympics over and the world's eyes turned from Sochi, Russia's biggest film is coming to America and bringing with it questions about how the country's controversial anti-LGBT propaganda regulation laws and policies affect the Russian film industry.
0

Dr. Vitaly Chernetsky of the University of Kansas, an expert on Russian Cinema with an interest in LGBT and gender studies, disagrees.

"As someone who is originally from the former Soviet Union, things in Russia look very bleak indeed at the moment," he said.

He brought up the recent scandal concerning the Tchaikovsky biopic currently in production. After much back and forth with the film's screenwriter, it became clear that director Kirill Serebrennikov would not shy away from the composer's historically accurate orientation. The film received an initial promise of funding from state agency Cinema Fund, but then had its installment refused. Serebrennikov and his producer, Sabina Eremeyeva, announced they would look for funding abroad.

"Far From Sunset Boulevard"
"Far From Sunset Boulevard"

Chernetsky could recall only three other Russian films in recent years that had gay themed subject matter. "You I Love" (2003) was an international festival/art-house hit but received no serious domestic distribution. "Far from Sunset Boulevard" (2006) played in theaters in France but was refused domestic distribution in Russia. The film's out gay director, Igor Minaev, has since emigrated to France. "Veselchaki" ("Jolly Fellows," 2009) was a film about drag queens intended for the domestic audience, but, as Chernetsky pointed out, features a very disturbing ending: all five main characters are murdered by homophobes but reunite in heaven. It did not do well in theaters.

Chernetsky said that gay characters have occasionally appeared on Russian TV in recent years, but as comic or villainous stereotypes. Since the gay propaganda law passed, he said, there has been only one gay character on Russian television in a mini-series called "The Thaw," a "Mad Men" like drama set in the 1960s Soviet film industry.

"It was quite shocking that it was broadcast on Russia's state-owned Channel 1," Chernetsky said. "It shows that the old Russian saying that 'the severity of Russian laws is compensated by inconsistency of their application' rings true. The laws are applied just enough to create an atmosphere of fear."

It is that atmosphere of fear, he said that keeps filmmakers from taking any chances.

"Overall, the main problem is self-censorship resulting from this fear and the invisibility of positive gay role models in public," he said. "There was an actual lesbian and gay culture developing slowly but surely for about 15 years, from the time of the repeal of the sodomy laws in 1993 until a few years ago, and now it has been unceremoniously forced back into the closet." 

As an ideologically tinged war epic, "Stalingrad" presumably had no problems receiving its state funding, though that's not to say the film didn't encounter its own controversy. A Change.org petition to ban the film in Russia was introduced. It objected to the film's empathetic portrayal of the Nazi character played by Thomas Kretschmann and also resented the romantic relationship between his and Studilina's characters. Bondarchuk said that World War II is a somewhat sacred subject in Russian filmmaking.

"You I Love"
"You I Love"

"It is very difficult and dangerous to touch it," he said. "Even amongst the youngest audience who are free and open to everything and new tech and so on, if you touch World War II, the war of the great fatherland, they become conservative." They screened "Stalingrad" for Russian veterans in the same city, now called Volgograd.

"I was so, so afraid of this screening," Bondarchuk said, but he insisted that audiences are changing so much, that the time had come for a new approach, and the Veterans reacted well.

"The theme of romantic link between a Russian woman and German soldier is really politically incorrect, even still today," Studilina said. "But I think that love can transcend religions, nations, language, politics, any barrier."

Let’s hope that for Russia, that sentiment will one day include gender and sexual orientation.

"Stalingrad" opens in the U.S. on February 28. This article was originally posted on Indiewire earlier this week.