It is incredibly distressing when we see our society moving backwards. Here in America, it's happening with women's rights. While in Russia, Vladimir Putin is turning back the clock on how the LGBTQ+ community is treated.
"Firebird" - In Theaters Now & On VOD June 3rd
In the new film "Firebird," we learn the true story of former Soviet soldier Sergey Fetisov.
Before the fall of the USSR in the 90's, Fetisov served in the Soviet Air Force and fell in love with another man (a pilot), which was against the law at the time and punishable with prison time.
Fetisov is played by out British actor Tom Prior. Prior also co-wrote the screenplay with director Peeter Rebane.
In an interview, Prior told me about his years long journey to bring this story to the big screen. He met with Fetisov before his death in 2017 and even attended his funeral.
"The message really which comes through the film, I think, is really about following your heart and being true to yourself. That really is what Sergey taught me actually."
The film does Sergey's legacy proud. Unlike some smaller budget, LGBTQ+ films, this one is epic in scale. The sets are huge including an air force base and a gorgeous ballet production inside a beautifully appointed theater.
The leading men, Prior and Oleg Zagorodnii are convincing in their roles and skillful at avoiding any stereotypes. Their love story is passionate and very much grounded in the reality of that period.
Their main nemesis, a Soviet general played by Margus Prangel, has a terrifying presence and ably conveys the fear that these men and all gay men must have felt during that time.
But sadly, this story can not be so easily relegated to "the past."
The Film Putin Doesn't Want The World To See
Not surprisingly Russia's current dictator, Vladimir Putin, is rolling back the rights of LGBTQ+ people. And his government even worked to block audiences from seeing "Firebird" at the Moscow Film Festival.
As Tom Prior told me:
"There were protesters actually outside the cinema holding banners saying 'stop homosexual propaganda.' That was a pretty interesting and alarming response honestly."
But despite his best efforts, Putin has failed to stop this love story from being made and distributed around the world.
It is now available to see in many theaters and will hit Digital and Video On Demand starting June 3rd.
As we celebrate Pride Month, it's important to remember that as much progress has been made, the struggle just to love who you want to love continues in many parts of the world.
I highly recommend "Firebird" as a beautiful way of remembering those who came before and the work that lays ahead.