Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda

| April 2, 2014

With the Winter Olympics behind us, many have already started to forget about the controversial laws passed by Russia against homosexuals leading up to the games.  This documentary looks at the struggles of homosexuals in Russia today and throughout history.

Like with all of Breaking Glass Pictures’ releases, I didn’t get a proper DVD release of this documentary; I got a burned copy of the screener.  This usually isn’t a big deal.  Sure, it’s annoying to be watching a movie and periodically have a watermark remind me that this is the property of Breaking Glass Pictures, and it’s not for resale, but there are a couple of odd things about this particular release.  First, I spotted a typo in the subtitles.  The problem with any documentary making an argument is that it has to maintain trustworthiness at all times.  How am I supposed to take the argument seriously if no one proofread the subtitles?

A separate issue with the subtitles is that they’re very literal translations of the original Russian, which results in some odd sentence structure, and simply hits the audience’s ear wrong.  This distracts from the overall purpose of the film.  I understand the choice to do it, knowing that they wanted the words of the people interviewed to be preserved as accurately as possible, but I disagree with the choice at an aesthetic level.

The other odd thing about this screener is that the documentary is incomplete.  There’s a point where the film cuts to a blank screen that reads “Text to Come.”  This gets back into the issue of professionalism and trustworthiness.  How am I supposed to take the film’s argument seriously if the film is incomplete?

Obviously, some of these issues would be resolved in the actual DVD release of the film, so if you’re interested in the state of homosexual issues in Russia, you’ll probably enjoy this documentary.  I tend to resist any documentary that makes an argument because it seems too easy to edit interviews together in such a way to make your supporters seem perfect and your opposition seem foolish.  While we do see interviews with a variety of different people, I find it hard to believe that every person interviewed on the streets of Russia is a religious zealot who is completely disgusted by homosexuality.  I show a similar video in my class that depicts members of the tea party in a similarly negative way, when obviously not all members of the tea party are idiotic, hateful, monsters.

When the film sticks to presenting information, I’m very interested in it.  There’s a lot of historical context to help educate the audience about the struggles of homosexuals in Russia going back to Stalin’s time.  It’s only when I feel like I’m being preached to that I start to tune out.

Available now on DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
Filed in: Video and DVD

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