Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens says his camp new Eurovision film deals with the very real dangers of being queer in Chechnya
Netflix’s new Eurovision movie, starring Will Ferrell, will give a real insight into what it’s like to be a queer Chechen man, star Dan Stevens has revealed.
The Downton Abbey star plays fictional Chechen/Russian contestant Alexander Lemtov in Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, released June 26.
The film also stars Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as struggling Icelandic musicians who are fighting for the chance to represent their country in the contest.
“He’s the anti-hero,” Stevens told Attitude Magazine of his character. “He’s an obstacle for Lars (Ferrell). Lars wants to be Lemtov and there’s tremendous jealousy and he worries he’s going to steal Sigrit (McAdams).”
“It was more interesting, though, that he wasn’t there to woo her. He has his issues with his identity and what he’s able to admit to.”
Netflix Eurovision movie star researched Russia and Chechnya’s attitude to gay people.
Stevens said it is “unbelievable” that there are many countries that still do not recognise sexual diversity.
“There are artists in so many countries who can’t admit it [being LGBT+], because they’d be in danger,” he said.
“But the best thing about Eurovision is that it’s a haven and a celebration. It champions [LGBT+ rights],”he said.
Lemtov is from Chechnya. I looked up Kadyrov’s and Putin’s attitude to gay people, and we didn’t want to belittle that danger in any way.
His character is “king of the castle” at the contest because it is “a safe space” for the LGBT+ community, Steven said.
“Lemtov is from Chechnya. I looked up Kadyrov’s and Putin’s attitude to gay people, and we didn’t want to belittle that danger in any way.
He added: “We wanted to get it right and hit the right notes.”
“After some of the trailers, people wondered if a Russian villain wasn’t very progressive, but I think once people see the film they’ll realise that wasn’t the case.”
Chechnya initiated an ‘anti-gay purge’ in 2017.
Chechnya first made headlines for its “anti-gay purge” in 2017 when it was reported that police rounded up and tortured dozens of men suspected of being gay.
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In January of last year, reports of a renewed purge began to emerge. Chechen officials initially denied it and blamed gay people’s “sick imagination”, but the accounts of torture and abuse became impossible to ignore.
Since April 2017, the Russian LGBT Network has evacuated around 150 people out of Chechnya, with the majority settling outside of Russia. Activists have received death threats and had their homes invaded.
Last year, 27-year-old Amin Dzhabrailov told CBC News that he fled to Canada from Chechnya after he was tortured for being gay.
“It’s like [being] on the edge of dying, especially when they’re using that machine which is making electricity. I was screaming to stop this,” he said.