Wednesday, November 18, 2020

DOC NYC Spotlight: Welcome to Chechnya

I’m excited to be covering DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eleventh year, this time in a mostly online format, from November 11th-19th.

Welcome to Chechnya
Directed by David France
Ticket Information

The increasing instability of political liberties in the United States have propelled a generation of activists into action, desperate to protect the freedoms that they may have, up until this point, taken for granted. There are many more steps to be achieved in order to approach true equality, but the United States is significantly ahead of many other countries in at least working towards legislation to protect certain classes. It’s truly horrifying to see what can happen around the world when discriminatory behavior is not only permitted but even encouraged by governments and culture against those who don’t conform.

In 2017, Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya, began commanding efforts to purge the region of any undesirable LGBTQ elements. Those who were outed were rounded up, tortured, and often sent back to their families, who were encouraged to kill them to preserve their honor and standing in society. A group of activists supporting the LGBTQ community work desperately to help save the lives of several individuals who are facing impossible situations and whose only hope for survival is to leave the country and be granted asylum somewhere where they can be truly safe from persecution.

This film includes a number of extremely disturbing clips described as footage “intercepted” by the group that demonstrate the true inhuman depravity being inflicted upon people based only on their sexual orientation. It’s remarkable, then, in the face of such brutality, the good that others are able to do to put themselves in danger for the sake of others who risk plenty just by existing. The stories they hear about the impossible predicaments faced by the individuals they help, like a young woman who has to choose between having sex with her uncle or having the fact that she is a lesbian exposed, are harrowing and extremely disturbing.

This exposé takes a responsible approach to the truth it showcases, digitally altering the faces of those who are on the run so that they will not be put further at risk. There is an astonishing degree of bravery demonstrated by the team that goes to great lengths to secure safe passage out of the country and a pathway to a better life free from constant fear for members of their community. This problem has by no means been solved, since Kadyrov and the government continue to deny the presence of any LGBTQ people within Chechnya or Russia, but the work being done here is formidable and given a vital platform to have its crucial message transmitted to a world that can hopefully begin to intervene.


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