Vancouver Queer Film Festival 2014: Children 404 gives voice to persecuted LGBT Russian youth
In Russian, with English subtitles.
The abuse is relentless.
Armed with cameras, several Russian LGBT youth capture what their daily lives are like at school. Students pass them by, hurling slurs incessantly. In voiceovers, other youth relate how even adults, including teachers and parents, have told them they should die.
When even the government backs such explicit hatred towards queer people, where are adolescents to turn?
Journalist Elena Klimova gave them hope, by creating the online support group Children 404, named after the internet error message, on social media. Youth told their stories of oppression and internal struggles to share with one another, to let each other know that they are not alone.
By making a documentary about them, filmmakers Pavel Loparev and Askold Kurov took their voices further, to let the world know what the day-to-day reality is like that the news headlines don't necessarily reveal.
Although the raw video footage captured by the youth is choppy and the transitions between the various voiceovers can be sometimes confusing to follow, the content remains too powerful and compelling to ignore. The fact that they have to remain anonymous with their faces obscured indicates the great risks they took to participate.
Consequently, the few interviewees who dare to show their faces on camera, such as Pasha (who moved to Canada to escape the hatred), are exceptional.
What is disconcerting to consider is that while Canadian queer youth are growing up in a country with LGBT rights and public support, many Canadian youth continue to face similar struggles as these brave Russian souls. If the fight towards acceptance continues in Canada, it's painful to imagine how much further Russian society (and other countries around the world) has yet to go.
Children 404 screens at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival's Centerpiece Gala at the Vancouver Playhouse on August 21. Codirector Askold Kurov will participate in a Q&A session at the screening.