›› Hunted ‹‹

a documentary by Ben Steele.

2014 | 49 mins | UK.

the brutal reality of being gay in Putin's Russia.

Dave says:

Six months after Russia's parliament rubber-stamped a law that banned all positive and neutral references to "non-traditional" relationships under the guise of protecting children, Russia welcomed gay athletes and spectators to the Sochi Winter Olympics of 2014. Yet in this alarming Dispatches documentary, reporter Liz MacKean and director Ben Steele found themselves witness to the fact that such acts of sexual acceptance were but a carefully managed show stage for the media, far removed from the real lives of those of differing sexual orientation, who in Putin's Russia can only but dream of the gay rights and freedoms that we take for granted in the West.

For here MacKean and Steele bravely shone the spotlight on the widespread hostility towards gay people in Russia, a bitter hatred that has culminated in extremist gangs all but free to target homosexual men and woman like wild animals in what has become known as an open-ended hunting season. Stalking their prey, often by way of gay dating websites, groups of the like of the St Petersburg branch of Occupy Paedophilia movement have flourished, intent on capturing and humiliating unsuspecting minds, before going on to post trophy styled footage of their victims online; footage that is as harrowing to watch, as it was frightening for those caught in the bloody grip of homosexual persecution.

Yet being drenched in urine, tortured and beaten up is the lesser of two evils. As the production team were to discover, when they came face to face with the brutal reality of being gay in Putin's Russia, as 25-year-old Dima found himself left blinded for life in one eye, after armed thugs stormed a community centre in St Petersburg. That such 'hang them or burn them' gangs operate with impunity, in a country in which the State has branded homosexuals as paedophiles in the public eye, has not surprisingly resulted with the majority of Russia's LGBT youth opting to stay firmly in the closet - in fear of their very life itself.

Yet as this telling documentary went on to show, some brave individuals are not afraid to show their face and shout for their rights, whilst others in the teaching profession, straights included, are even prepared to put their careers at risk by extending the open hand of sexual acceptance. Yet the law and social attitudes are against them, fuelled by both the State and the homophobic sermons of the Russian Orthodox Church and a leader who in knowingly turning a blind eye, has all but legitimized gay bashing.

That the President of Russia should deliberately speak of homosexuality and paedophilia in the same breath, was a clear signal back in 2014 of the shameful step backward that Russia had taken in human rights under Putin's bloodstained leadership, making those at the time question just what did that say about the man himself? And the answer to that lies in the shocking situation in Ukraine and of a leader openly violating human rights. That all wars result in the tragic deaths of so many innocent men, women and children, goes without saying. As too, the West can hardly hold up its hands and plead not guilty to having committed illicit air strikes in recent years. Yet every world leader is judged by their actions and in particular on their record of human rights. Putin's record is now clear for all to see; that of an autocrat who believes that he has the right to redraw the map of Europe, and to do so in blood. That his actions have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and an on-going refugee crisis, does not worry him; given this is a man who frankly does not care if his own people suffer in the wake of economic sanctions against Russia.

Whatever the outcome of the horrifying war in Ukraine be, the upshot for Vladimir Putin is that his name will forever be synonymous with the blatant disregard for human rights and the very right for life itself and in death all despots eventually fall, will ever be remembered for the barbaric acts that have put his country to shame.

a Channel 4 Dispatches Special: Wednesday, 5th February, 2014 / 22:00 to 23:00.
›› revised: Sunday, 6th March, 2022.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - none | Overall - file under ... 5 stars

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