Queer online series meets eager Russian LGBTQ audience

Entertainment

This image released by Fancy Production shows actors Dmitry Simonov as Lyosha and Arsen Khandzhyan as Roma in a scene from the “Here I come” web series in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, July 18, 2020. Fenochka says his web series about queer young people is important for LGBTQ people in Russia, which bans gay “propaganda” among minors. (Fancy Production via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian film director Andrei Fenochka says his online series about queer young people is important for LGBTQ people in a country that bans gay “propaganda” among minors.

Fenochka’s “Here I Come” series that debuted last fall is marked as only available to people older than 18 in accordance with Russian law.

Fenochka said Tuesday that the Russian audience has welcomed the series, which he described as a romantic story that mixes “mystics, dreams and everyday life.”

“We have met with a very positive, supportive reaction from young viewers because they finally see the presentation of this part of society not only in English or in Korean, but also in Russian,” he said. “It is important for them to feel that they are not alone, they are not in isolation, they are not banned. Therefore, the interest is very large.”

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains widespread. In 2013, Russia adopted a federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” The law has been widely criticized as effectively blocking any public discussions of homosexuality while authorities have argued it’s intended to protect the interests of children.

And in the predominantly Muslim Russian province of Chechnya, scores of men were arrested and tortured and some were killed on the mere suspicion of being gay in recent years, according to human rights groups. Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed regional strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov has claimed there are no gays in Chechnya and a government probe found no proof of abuses.

Asked if he fears reprisals, Fenochka said that he and members of his crew were concerned about the safety of their actors while they were filming romantic scenes in open locations. He emphasized that all his actors were adults.

He noted that the sense of danger has given him a flow of adrenaline and argued that it’s not a reason to be afraid.

“If you feel a free person and continue to live in Russia and you want to talk about any topics in your art, you need to be ready for any consequences,” he said.

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