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Russia’s first-ever anti-homophobia campaign defiantly launches on anniversary of Putin crackdown

Emma Powys Maurice July 2, 2021
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Russia

A scene from Russia's first anti-homophobia campaign, 'We Will Become Better' (Image supplied)

The first-ever Russian anti-homophobia campaign has bravely launched on the anniversary of a constitutional amendment that formally banned same-sex marriage in Russia.

The unflinching campaign is led by the Russian LGBT Network, which released a heartrending film depicting the love and struggle of two queer men through interpretive dance.

Simply titled “We Will Become Better,” the video was released in defiance of Russia’s notorious “gay propaganda” law, which criminalises any positive depiction of LGBT+ identities.

“This campaign is a precedent for Russia’s social advertising industry. It’s the first-ever project created by an LGBT+ organisation and a marketing agency,” said Alla Chikinda of the Yekaterinburg Resource Centre for LGBT people.

“The video has been produced by one of the country’s most successful ad agencies and it features a popular song, so it’s a big step towards recognising the importance of LGBT-oriented agenda.”

The poignant film follows two men, played by Nikita Orlov and Maxim Avdeev, as they navigate the pushes and pulls of love’s usual trials – made all the more difficult due to fear hostility outside the walls of their distant apartments in Moscow.

Expertly and sensitively performed, directed, styled and edited, the six-minute film uses split-screen imagery to show the dancers seemingly collide and interact, painting the ups and downs of their passionate relationship.

“These are two people that love each other and want to be together, but forbid themselves because of societal judgment, because of certain walls that are created around that relationship, and so unfortunately it cannot happen,” explains writer Evgeny Primachenko.

Beautiful film was inspired by Russia’s homophobic campaign ads

Primachenko was prompted to create the film in response to the homophobic campaign that drove last year’s constitutional reforms, a package of changes which included an amendment defining marriage as “a union between a man and a woman”.

A flood of state-endorsed anti-gay ads presented “the [LGBT+] community in an incredibly clichéd, offensive way – in an extremely negative light,” Primachenko remembers.

One manipulative video showed a gay couple adopting a child, with a flamboyantly camp “mother” trying to dress the cowering orphan in a glittery dress. “This is what will happen if you don’t vote for the constitution change,” the advert threatens.

The demonising campaign saw the media dominated by a vicious anti-LGBT+ rhetoric, which critics claimed Putin was using to distract voters from his true goal: a sinister constitutional change that would enable him to remain in power until he is 83.

For Primachenko, it was “the last straw” – so a year on, he decided to release his own film challenging the Russian media’s offensive, narrow portrayals of same-sex relationships.

“Step by step, little by little, we introduce the characters and their backstories, and hopefully by the end the audience feels for the couple. And if they feel for the couple, hopefully they can change their minds,” he said.

The writer is “100 per cent confident” that the landscape of LGBT+ rights will soon improve in Russia, promising: “If history teaches us anything about this subject, it’s that equality always wins. Tolerance always wins.”

However, the film’s director, Andzej Gavriss, is more cautious in his hope. “You can’t change the world just like that,” he said. “You have to go one step at a time.”

Related topics: Russia

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