With gay marriage seemingly on a legislative roll in the U.S., it’s important to remember that for many nations, gay visibility and activism remain in their infancy, if not repressed entirely. Australian-produced “East Bloc Love” surveys such struggles in several former Soviet bloc nations where public, governmental and religious condemnation of homosexuality still runs high. Straightforward, informative docu should continue traveling gay and human-rights festival circuits while attracting some broadcast sales.
Helmer Logan Mucha creates a narrative thread by placing recurrent emphasis on authoritarian Belarus, where the sole gay organization and its leader, Sergey Yenin, are planning a Slavic Gay Pride event despite an official ban. As the date approaches, those marching hope for the best, which would mean they’d be allowed to parade publicly for a few moments before being arrested by police and/or attacked by skinheads. Media personnel in attendance are warned that they’ll probably get beaten a little and may have their cameras smashed. The simple act of making gays’ presence known, however fleetingly, is a major achievement at this point.
Elsewhere, pic follows activists in Estonia, Latvia and Poland. Even in the relatively Westernized latter nation, 55,000 people sign a petition against Warsaw’s hosting of an annual Europride conference. In many of these countries, there’s a popular notion that no homosexuality existed until it was “imported” from the West. Numerous gay citizens, especially older ones, privately oppose gay political action for fear that raising the minority’s profile will only make their lot worse. Even active human-rights organizations frequently leave LGBT issues off their agendas here.
The founder of a Latvian group called NoPride sees his campaign as purely “defensive,” playing the familiar tune that in asking for equal rights, gays are somehow demanding more rights than straights. It’s hard to stomach his claims of victimization when he proudly boasts he’d shoot any homosexual who tried to speak at his children’s school.
While such realities and numerous small factoids learned here are depressing — such as the fact that in Belarus, a transsexual must be at least 23 years old and declared “mentally ill” to qualify for sex-change procedures — the courage of activists seen and interviewed (almost exclusively in English) is unwavering. Pic’s assembly is workmanlike.