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Retrograde in Petrograd
Porn director Michael Lucas revisits his Russian youth for his second documentary
There are few documentarians out today who can lay claim to a law degree, a porn career in three countries on two continents, eight porn awards and spurring the New York LGBT Community Center to place a moratorium on renting space to groups on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
That filmmaker is Michael Lucas, who was born in Moscow in 1972 before moving first to Germany, then France, before settling in New York City in 1997. He became a Falcon Studios exclusive before starting his own company, Lucas Entertainment, which put out the first pornographic film featuring an entirely Israeli cast, Men of Israel. Lucas followed that up with Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land, his first �legitimate� film, a documentary about being gay in Israel, a country that is very accepting but still suffers from religious extremists.
Now he follows that up with a look at another country with which he has ties: Russia, taking a retrograde path through the history of LGBT rights.
Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda examines his homeland in the aftermath of the passage of a national law outlawing the dissemination of �gay propaganda� to minors, which basically makes it illegal to say anything pro-gay or express affection for someone of the same sex if there is even the slightest chance of someone under the age of 18 seeing it. The national law came out of a similar one passed in St. Petersburg, which was called Petrograd during the Soviet era.
In the film, Lucas interviews dozens of people, from average Russians on the street to LGBT advocates, gay and straight. He talks to rabidly anti-gay activists who spout religious dogma as scientific fact, and the mother of a gay man who is doing everything she can to make her nation safe for her son.
He speaks to advocates in the United States, as well as expatriates who have escaped the repressive Putin regime to find the freedom to love openly in the West.
There is one constant between all the people he interviews, regardless of which side of the debate someone is on: Fear.
The forces of repression fear the big gay bogeyman that the Putin administration has put before them, a symbol of Western decadence and the death of �Russian values.� LGBT parents fear their children being taken from them. All the gay men and lesbians fear the violence that could target them at any moment. Most of the gay men and women interviewed by Lucas have been the target of physical violence, either by nationalist youths or religious extremists, if not both. Some were drawn in by fake personal ads, others were attacked after leaving gay bars, still others were brutalized at Pride rallies or LGBT film festivals.
Lucas has no easy answers, since there are really none to be had. One reporter, a lesbian, states that if the Putin regime falls out of power in the near future, the current oppression may be short-lived, but the longer he keeps the reins, the longer it will take afterwards to move Russia back to its post-Soviet direction.
Some of the interviewees believe that equality is just around the corner, while others doubt it will arrive in their lifetimes. Some want to stay and fight for their country, while others would like nothing more than to emigrate to a country that will value them as human beings.
There is something unspeakably heartbreaking about seeing a 16-year-old express the fervent desire to leave his home country rather than live somewhere that he doubts will ever let him love freely.
Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda hit DVD on April 1 from Breaking Glass Pictures.
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