In 2017, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an explosive investigation. The authorities in Chechnya were rounding up LGBT people, torturing, and even allegedly executing them for being queer. It was a reign of terror sanctioned by the Chechen authorities, involving the Chechen security services, police, and even regular citizens. Moscow turned a blind eye and has rejected evidence showing that this state violence occurred. We know what we know about the fate of LGBT people in Chechnya thanks to the testimonies of victims smuggled out of the north Caucasian republic by activists in Russia. It’s safe to say that the activists saved hundreds of lives, and not without personal costs to them and their families. The film, Welcome to Chechnya, documents these efforts and highlights not only the victims’ traumas, survival and struggles for justice and the heroic work of those activists dedicated their cause. For more on the making of Welcome to Chechnya and the stories in it, I talked to its director, David France.
David France is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, a New York Times bestselling author, and award-winning investigative journalist. He’s directed three films on LGBT rights, resistance, and life including How to Survive a Plague, The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson, and most recently Welcome to Chechnya. You can view Welcome to Chechnya on HBO.
Klaus Nomi, “Simple Man,” Simple Man, 1982.