ACMI and AIDC present
Welcome to Chechnya
Featuring an interview with director David France
Award-winning journalist David France deploys technology to uncover a horrifying genocide of gay people in Chechnya as activists fight to save lives.
A testament to human kindness, ingenuity, and courage.
Stick around after the screening for a prerecorded interview with director David France.
As a journalist, David France has spent the entirety of his forty-year career documenting LBGTQIA+ issues, from Catholic sexual abuse scandals in the US to his award-winning coverage of gay persecution in Iraq. Informed by his own lived experience, his expertise as a journalist elevates his work as a filmmaker by combining traditional tools like primary sourcing with modern ones like deepfake technology. It’s the latter that adds such a vital wrinkle to France’s latest film Welcome To Chechnya, which looks at the organised genocide of gay citizens within the Russian Republic. As rumours start to spread of a “gay purge” happening in Chechnya with everyone from everyday citizens to famous pop stars like Zelim Bakaev disappearing, activists race against time to smuggle people out of the country.
If the events of Welcome to Chechnya feel like that of a dystopian horror story, that’s because they are. Even the Orwells and the Atwoods could only touch on the kind of atrocities a government could inflict on its citizens with unlimited, unchecked power in their fiction. In Welcome to Chechnya that vision becomes fully realised not just with the victim testimonials, but the leaked cell phone footage of abductions, torture, and murder happening within the country every day, still. With an experienced journalist like France at the helm, the story plays out in horrifying and meticulous detail.
Adding another string to his bow as a modern historian is the evolution of technology. While there are just a handful of subjects brave enough to reveal their faces and their stories now that they have achieved refugee status in foreign countries, deepfake technology allows the identities of Chechnian fugitives to be disguised with the digital overlay of faces from American-based activists. Furthermore, the versatility and mobility of filmmaking tools like hidden cameras, GoPros and encryption software, help take the audience behind borders and into the heart of the horror. Because of this, Welcome To Chechnya makes for intentionally uncomfortable viewing. Yet like France’s other films including the Academy Award-nominated How To Survive A Plague and The Death And Life of Marsha P. Johnson, it’s a just as important historical document.
– Maria Lewis, Assistant Curator, Film
READ: How Hidden Cameras Captured a Daring Rescue in Welcome to Chechnya
Patricia Thomson, Documtary.org, Aug 2020
READ: New Reports of Gay Singer Abducted and Murdered in Chechnya
Sean O'Toole, HuffPost, Oct 2017
READ: Gay man takes Russia to Europe’s rights court over Chechnya LGBT+ attacks
Zamira Rahim, The Independent, May 2019
1 & 8 Mar 2021
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Strong themes and sexual violence