To say that Russian’s draconian anti-gay propaganda laws put a serious damper on the recent Sochi Winter Olympics would be an understatement. Many viewers boycotted the games, and queer athletes found themselves facing a very tough decision: forfeit their hard work and training to protest the games, or participate knowing their very queerness would put them under scrutiny by the Russian government, media and viewers on both sides of the battle.
The upcoming Sundance Production’s documentary To Russia with Love tackles the Sochi controversy head on with interviews and commentary by queer athletes, all the while being filmed on location without the Russian government’s knowledge. Out figure skater turned commentator Johnny Weir guides the documentary through his interviews with current and former Olympians and athletes. To Russia with Love is directed by Noam Gonick, a Canadian filmmaker and features athletes from around the world, giving the film a more internationally humanistic perspective.
Prior to the games, AfterEllen released a gay guide to the Olympics including a roster of openly lesbian and bisexual athletes participating in the games. A few of these athletes, including snowboarder Belle Brockoff and speed skater Anastasia Bucsis, lend their voices to the documentary. Legendary athletes Billie Jean King and Greg Louganis are also featured to give their unique perspective as gay athletes who forged the way for queer presence in sports.
Russia is far from the only country with strict anti-gay laws, but the fervor and speed in which their recent propaganda laws were passed and carried out was downright chilling. Now that the athletes are gone and the snow has melted in Sochi, Russian LGBT citizens are still being marginalized and threatened on a daily basis. Hopefully, To Russia with Love will keep refocus attention on the continuing hardships our community faces there and across the globe.
To Russia with Love debuts on October 22 on the pay cable network EPIX.