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Victory Day- DOK Leipzig Award Winner

Monday 2 February 2015, by Ryan Ormonde

I am watching a 29-minute documentary called Victory Day because I want to hear from members of the LGBT community in Russia. Here they are, various same-sex couples. One of them has a teenage daughter. Some of them have dogs. One couple is cooking, another is doing D.I.Y. I like the telling glances, the smiles and the body language. I am interested in the clothing and the hairstyles. Are they ’passing’? In Russia what does ’looking gay’ look like?

Oh yes, and I want to hear them talk about how it is to live under a regime that strongly sanctions homophobia as part of its church-approved ideal of national identity and social morality. Last week the administrator of a key online network for Russian LGBT youth was given a hefty fine under a law prohibiting ’propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships’. To you or I, that’s ’providing vital emotional support and preventing suicide’.

The image this film instils in its viewer is of a domestic reality, sweet and ordinary, in half a dozen reiterations, penned in by a literal and metaphorical parade of armoured vehicles and its chorus of unintentionally ironic lyrics of freedom and humanity. On their sofas the couples smile wryly; they joke half-heartedly: they shrug. They all talk of fears for the future, things getting worse. The interviewer is off-camera and silent, only referenced in the neutral yet responsive faces of each subject.

In the complicated, long term campaign that is the fight for global LGBT rights, what role can cinema play? Victory Day provokes frustration and anger, yet the film is itself passive and calm. It uses its medium and genre to appeal to our very human curiosity in each other. In its 29 minutes, there is much to listen to but a lot more to hear and to see. It breathes. While there is useful energy in our constant social chatter and verbose sharing, Victory Day’s power lies in its stillness and in the eternal mirroring of human behaviour.

Victory Day is not yet widely available. For now you could watch an informative and stirring documentary about LGBT activists in Russia, produced by Vice in partnership with Stonewall. If you have money, you can donate it to Stonewall, Peter Tatchell or Kaleidoscope Trust. If you have time, you can connect with these organisations via social media or subscribe to their mail-outs to be informed of specific actions that may arise in connection with LGBT rights in Russia and other countries. Stonewall’s somewhat cautious guidelines about getting involved as an individual or a company are worth reading.

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