In 2017 a raid on drugs became the starting point of persecution of LGBTQ+ people in Chechnya. Since then, countless people have suffered torture, disappeared, and died – penalised not only by a government which claims to be secular, but also by their families who attempt to erase the shame they feel by punishing their children, often to the point of death. Welcome to Chechnya succeeds especially in laying out the social context, and just how quickly the Chechen ‘purge’ of LGBTQ+ people began. As the systematic eradication of gays and lesbians continues to spread to other Russian provinces, unchecked by any law or justice, the question of where it will happen next is omnipresent. 

At great personal risk for all involved, David France conducts personal interviews with the Russian activists who are fighting daily to bring victims to safety, and documents their operations. Resources are short, and visas are difficult to come by, refugee status even harder to obtain; but it is clear that the victims of systematic Chechen police brutality cannot stay in Russia. 

In order to protect the identity of the temporary inhabitants of their Moscow safehouse while affording them the freedom to speak without appearing faceless, France and his team employ a digital masking technique. The sense of the uncanny lingers in these scenes – it’s an effective tool to convey just how perilous it is for the victims to make any public appearance. Only one man is finally courageous enough to go public, revealing both his real name and the acts of torture he has had to endure. Here, then, is the only instance a superimposed mask fades away.

Welcome to Chechnya makes a point of showing instances of very real violence, which are not easy to watch, but underline the urgency of the situation. France has created a documentary which is both incendiary and vital: we must bear witness to these atrocities and cannot allow them to be forgotten.



DIRECTOR: David France

SYNOPSIS: The searing documentary WELCOME TO CHECHNYA chronicles the current anti-LGBTQ persecution raging in the Russian republic of Chechnya and shadows the LGBTQ activists who risk unimaginable peril to rescue victims from a targeted campaign of torture and brutality.