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Russia, Under the Microscope

Russia, Under the Microscope


Two new docs depict gay life in a divided country.


This year's Winter Olympics in Sochi focused the world's attention on Russia, just as its draconian laws forbidding "gay propaganda" went into effect. This month, two TV documentaries turn our gaze back to the country, making the case that the largest nation on earth may also be our largest crisis. HBO's Hunted:The War Against Gays in Russia shows just how drastically these laws have changed the lives of Russia's LGBT citizens. Every potential hookup is marred by a sense of terror as self-styled vigilantes lure in gay men to humiliate and torture them. In one startling scene, a victim is forced to dance for the captors who've trapped him in their game. With this anti-"propaganda" initiative, gay people aren't permitted to speak out in any way.

But they can break free, if they're lucky enough. Epix's To Russia With Love follows the triumphs and trials of 2014's Olympic athletes, getting star power from Sochi commentator Johnny Weir. If he has a platform, that's not true of a group of young gay asylum seekers in Brooklyn who couldn't compete because they'd fled Russia before the games. "I didn't know anyone who'd done it before," says one man of coming out.

The films show how violence, both ignored and encouraged by the state, has become the new normal for gays in Russia. As one LGBT activist in To Russia With Love puts it, "When the games are over, ugly things start happening." Sadly, that time is now.

To Russia With Love premieres on Epix on Oct. 29. Watch the trailer for below:

To Russia With Love: Clip 3 from EPIX PR on Vimeo.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Daniel D'Addario