'Welcome to Chechnya': A Groundbreaking Documentary About the Fight for LGBT Rights in Chechnya
Welcome to Chechnya (2020) is a groundbreaking and profoundly illuminative documentary that follows a group of activists fighting for LGBT rights in modern-day Chechnya, where an ongoing anti-gay purge has seen the imprisonment, torture and murder of hundreds of citizens under Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Focused on the efforts of the Russian LGBT Network to rescue persecuted individuals and assist in their escape from the country, the film showcases a series of tense efforts to retrieve and house victims in underground safe houses—as well as the complex bureaucracies they must navigate in pursuit of proper visas for departees.
In order to capture these endeavors on film, director David France (How to Survive a Plague) subsumed himself within the rescue efforts, capturing much of his footage using hidden cameras and masking the identities of his subjects using facial replacement techniques popularized in modern “deepfake” video productions. The effect is utterly seamless in delivery, with volunteers offering their own likenesses for superimposition upon the victims’s faces–each of them desperate to conceal their true identities in fear of recrimination from Chechen authorities.
Culminating in Chechen victim Maxim Lapunov’s remarkably brave appearance before the European Court of Human Rights, thereby revealing his true identity to the world at large for the sake of international awareness, "Welcome to Chechnya" is an extraordinarily revelatory viewing experience and an urgent call to action, the world over.
Watch the trailer: