Sunday, February 09, 2014

"Dispatches - Hunted": UK television channel produces frightening documentary about anti-gay vigilantism, "The War Against Gays in Russia", in wake of anti-gay law; now on HBO

Britain’s Channel 4 have created a 43-minute documentary, directed by Ben Steele and narrated by reporter Liz MacKean, “Dispatches: Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia” about the explosion of homophobia in Russia, particularly in conjunction with the “antigay propaganda law” passed in June 2013. This is more than just a backlash against western progress in gay marriage and in ending the military ban. 
   
The basic link is here.
  
Early in the film, MacKean interviews a jewelry designer in St. Petersburg (Leningrad) named Timor, who works with a group called “Parents of Russia”.  Timor says “having a wife and child changes your perspective, it make you want to see your country become pure again.”  Later in the film, as Timor plans to disrupt gay pickets, he says, “No, it is not personal, it is about Russia.” But the "purity" certainly invokes memories of Nazism, although he might just mean some sort of collective purpose in lineage that is never questioned. 
   
The documentary, particularly the middle part, covers the vigilante gangs who physically attack men whom they believe to be gay, even trying to out them first.  MacKean films a group of vigilantes who try to entice gay men to come to their apartment for sex.  One man refuses but another comes.  In front of film cameras, they threaten him, although the film doesn’t really show a physical attack. The gangs often post their attacks on the Internet for “sport” and Russian authorities look the other way.
  
MacKean interviews a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, who insists on making an illogical and totally false equivalence of homosexuality and pedophilia. Human Rights Watch spokesperson Tanya Cooper says that the Russian people have been taught to believe in this idea by statist propaganda.
  
The film makes the point that the new “propaganda law” makes it impossible for gays to fight back with public speech.  The laws allow people to picket or leaflet in public (about any issue) only one person at a time, 50 meters apart.

Toward the end, MacKean interviews a teacher, Katya Bogatch, herself straight, who says that the anti-gay law is simply the government’s way to keep the people fighting among themselves so that they don’t challenge the regime’s authority (that is, Putin) and its inability to do much about the economy. It’s noteworthy that Russian teenagers with computer programming skills try to make money through hacking western financial institutions because legitimate employment doesn’t pay enough to support families, and Russia unofficially encourages pilferage of western interests.  It’s also interesting that (according to Wikipedia) possession of child pornography in Russia is not itself illegal.  If Russia is so concerned about protecting its children, why doesn’t it do something about child pornography, which is common in the country?  By way of comparison, China, viewed as even more authoritarian than Russia, is strict on pornography but doesn’t seem to have a vehement anti-gay environment.  It's important to remember also that Russia repealed its sodomy laws in 1993, so homosexual acts among adults in private are technically legal.  
   
When I watched the documentary, I wanted to scream at the people making such illogical statements.  It seems that the regard the presence of “private” homosexuality among adults as an existential threat to the ability of everyone to have children.  Russian leaders have been quoted as using the words “genderless” and “infertile” to characterize the west.  There’s no question that the anti-gay persecution in Russia is related to Putin’s desire to raise the birth rate and increase family size to counter Russia’s declining population.  There is a belief that if “marginal” young men believe that homosexuality is OK, they will decide not to have children.  
  
The film predicts that conditions may get worse after the Sochi Olympics end.   

The Human Rights Campagin posted a review of the film here

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of St. Petersburg.

Check two documentaries about anti-gay problems in Uganda, Oct. 23 ("God Loves Uganda") and Sept. 15, 2013 ("The World's Worst Place to Be Gay").  But now northern Nigeria may be the absolute worst.

Maybe we will see this new film (and the other two) on PBS POV, HBO, or CNN.



Update: Feb. 10

The full documentary that I watched has been suddenly removed by the user.  It had been posted by "Geo A"  on Feb. 7 and attracted over 51,500 views. The image still (as of 5 PM EST Monday)  shows with a search on YouTube, but I suspect it will not show up there much longer.  But I did find another video interview with Liz MacKean, from Britain here. The British journalist refers to the vigilante operation as self-called "Operation Pedophilia" and the undercover ops as "safaris".  In Russian street thinking, there is no distinction between pedophilia and (male) homosexuality, and idea that does not have the support of reputable science.  Note also the role of the Russian Orthodox Church, when the former Soviet Union was considered atheist.

Let's hope that a US group (like PBS) picks this up and airs it soon.  Or else, get a film distributor to show it in theaters and make a DVD.   I'll see what I can do, by networking, to get this film made available in the US.


Update: Oct. 4, 2014

HBO will air a full 60-minute version of the documentary Monday Oct. 6, 2014.  Variety has a review here,   The HBO link is here.

Note:  Feb, 21, 2015

I am told that Channel 4 in Britain is not part of the BBC.  

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