Ben Steele's terrifying new documentary “Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia,” informs us that the situation for LGBT people in Russia is far more dire than we in the United States may have realized. Steele takes his cameras directly into a country whose population has become obsessed, in the worst way possible, with LGBT people.
Steele is allowed into the "inner sanctum" of Occupy Pedophilia, a loose network of homophobic young people who spend their free time cruising gay chat rooms so they can lure gay men into their lair. Once the victim is trapped, shocking acts of degradation occur, which are usually videotaped and posted online. Steele shows us actual footage of a gay man having bottles of urine poured over his head. Another is forced to sodomize himself with a bottle.
In a Russia where President Vladimir Putin signed a draconian law making it a crime to promote any positive images of the gay community, members of Occupy Pedophilia are free to torture people openly and with total impunity. They giggle and laugh at Steele's camera, and at their own camera, as a weeping gay man refuses to reveal his name.
"Are you gay or bisexual?" they ask him. "Do your parents know? Will you lose your job?" The interrogator freely admits that her intent is to destroy his life. Her comrades nod in approval.
Earlier in the film we meet a married father who spends as much time as he can online looking for gay men he can out. He also goes after straight allies. He also says that he wants to destroy gay people's lives. They have no right to be in his country, he says.
The police routinely do nothing, even when LGBT people are bashed.
Steele visits a lesbian couple in their home. They have three children, and live in fear that the government might take away their kids. The faces of the family are blurred for their own safety.
Out on the street, small numbers of LGBT people attempt to protest the inhumane treatment they're being subjected to. As passersby insult them, we see the magnitude of the inexplicable hate the average Russian feels for its LGBT community. This isn't the "love the sinner hate the sin" approach of American anti-gay churches. This is "We hate you. We want to hurt you."
Steele and Matt Bomer, the film's narrator, offer little explanation for this escalation in anti-LGBT hate across the country. Rather, they simply present what is. It's a disturbing portrait of a sick society and it's brutalization of a people who need our help.
Look for Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia on HBO on October 6. Many airings will follow. The film will also be available On Demand and online.
More info: http://www.hbo.com/#/documentaries/hunted-the-war-against-gays-in-russia