In a new documentary, Oscar-nominated director David France and HBO go inside the anti-LGBT+ purges in Eastern Europe. After reports first surfaced in 2017, continuing through to at least 2019, the purges in both Russia and Chechnya were said to be the cause for disappearances for over 100 queer folks — the documentary alleges that “tens of thousands” of LGBTQ+ people in the republic have been victims of the purge in the last few years. As word began to spread about the occurrences, a network of activists began to develop not only fighting against the purge but working to evacuate potential victims from the region.
Launching on HBO and HBO Max June 30, Welcome to Chechnya goes inside of this network, focusing mainly on Rainbow Railroad. That organization helped to coordinate travel and paperwork for LGBTQ+ individuals hoping to see asylum elsewhere. Through not only documentary footage but also interviews with activists and survivors, the trailer juxtaposes this story against cold laughs of indifference from Ramzan Kadryov, the tyrannical leader of the Russian republic, when asked about it. The project uses “Deep Fake” technology, swapping out the faces of some of the film’s subjects with others to obscure their identity.
In September, European officials sought to apply new pressures to force the end of the purges. While the Council of Europe called attention to the reports which allege that queer folks were being beaten, imprisoned, tortured, or killed, there was very little they could actually do. The purges are likely still ongoing and France, and the team behind the film, have started an impact campaign to initiate changes in the region.