2014, Movies

Children 404 (2014, Askold Kurov, Pavel Loparev)

Ever since we all started recording ourselves, there has been an absolute trove of material for filmmakers to use to cover basically any subject they want. I don’t know when this started exactly, but I feel like this must have been one of the earlier films to take full advantage of this new facet of human experience. It’s a documentary that focuses on a online campaign or social network in Russia that allows LGBTQ teens to connect with each other now that “gay propaganda” is illegal in Russia. Though the film doesn’t rely primarily on these teens filming themselves, it may be why the film exists in the first place, and the content created by some of them lets us glimpse outside the stories of the two central characters and the few other people the filmmakers follow around.

The film itself is pretty scattershot. It’s one of those documentaries where the filmmakers interview a couple people and follow them around. The format is pretty tired – except for the use of pictures, audio recording and video from other Russian teens – but I can understand why they chose it for this film. After all, the film is basically about how it socially unacceptable it is to be gay in Russia, and how it is harder to find similar people or even sympathetic people, so talking to those affected and filming some of their experiences makes sense. All I’m saying is that the film isn’t going to knock your socks off as a film.

But the reason to watch it is to see the human cost of such social attitudes, especially when those attitudes are turned into policy and law. These kids just want to be themselves and want to love who they love. And much if not most of Russia seems to not only think that’s abhorrent but seems to have drank the Kool-Aid that even acknowledging their existence, or treating them as human beings, is somehow bad. It’s pretty heartbreaking to see how these kids are treated and how hard their lives are, for no good reason.

Every time I watch a film like this – or here about something in the news involving hate towards people like this – I always wonder what the problem is. What is everyone so afraid of? I know it’s trite and unsophisticated to say that the main reason people are homophobic is because they are scared they or their loved ones are gay/bi, but sometimes it’s hard to come up with a better explanation. When you hear about the ways in which these children have been treated by their own parents – it’s hard to make sense of it. The parents have one job – love their children – and they can’t even do that.


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