CONTROL: A group of activists risk unimaginable peril to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ programme raging in the Russian republic of Chechnya.
Carmen Gray
Freelance film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: February 26, 2020

«It’s politics. People have nothing to do with it.» This attitude is ascribed to Putin in Welcome to Chechnya, by way of explaining how it is that a wave of state-orchestrated atrocities against LGBTQ people could be systematically carried out without the Russian president batting an eye in one of his North Caucasus republics.

When terrorism was growing from Chechnya in the early 2000s, Putin responded by installing a pro-Russia regime, with Ramzan Kadyrov at the helm. In return for the strongman’s loyalty, he gave him free rein to run his country how he wanted — the seed of a growing cult of personality. This lack of accountability has enabled a brutal anti-gay purge of enforced disappearances, torture, and extra-judicial killings in the corrupt, ultra-conservative, and predominantly Muslim republic.

Welcome to Chechnya-documentary-posterDetails of the purge, which started in 2017 and are still ongoing, have leaked out despite the regime’s effective silencing methods. American documentarian and investigative reporter on LGBTQ issues David France now brings them to wider attention in his harrowing, essential film, which debuted at Sundance and has its International Premiere at the Berlinale. It is taut with white-knuckle suspense, as we are brought along on the perilous escape route out of Chechnya and into hiding with some who flee, getting a tiny taste of the all-consuming fear that a regime known for carrying out hits far beyond its own borders can engender. The intensely intimate, emotional yet straightforward and unadorned tenor of the documentary floors us with what Putin and his cronies cannot seem to see: that people, and their undeserved suffering, have precisely everything to do with these inhuman policies.


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