In Russia, gay men and women are "hunted like animals." That's the chilling message in HBO's new documentary about the war against LGBT Russians, "Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia."
Though homosexuality was legalized 20 years ago in Russia, homophobic violence is on the rise in the country, and according to the documentary, it might be a plot by the government to distract Russians from the nation's many problems. The situation is so bad that it's thought only one percent of gay and lesbian Russians live openly.
The film chronicles the intimidation, fear and harassment faced by gay and lesbian Russians on a daily basis. Here are the 6 most chilling scenes "Hunted":
1. A Father's Film Festival Attack
In the movie, we meet Timor, a married father and jewelry designer who runs the "traditional family values" group Parents of Russia. We watch as he and a friend, Dmitri, plot to disrupt a gay film festival by handing out gift bags with soap and a rope and the message, "kill yourself and cleanse the earth of your wickedness."
"This is Russia. This is hell for homosexuals," a satisfied Timor says after a bomb threat is called in to the festival. In Russia, there are no such thing as a gay hate crime.
2. Vigilante Groups On The Hunt
In a disturbing trend, homophobic vigilante groups have started to hunt gay men and attack them for "fun," posting their trophy videos online. The clips, viewed by thousands, depict brutal attacks and humiliations, including one that left a victim blind in one eye on the first day the "Hunted" crew began filming.
3. Russian Attitudes Stuck In The Past
Even as attitudes about homosexuality have changed across much of Europe over the past two decades, according to "Hunted," over one-third of Russians think that gay people should be medically, or psychologically treated. Last year, the Russian parliament unanimously passed a propaganda law that bans all positive and neutral references to "non-traditional" relationships that might be seen by anyone under 18.
4. The Russian Orthodox Church Is Fanning The Fire
A prominent member of the Russian Orthodox Church, Father Sergei, compares homosexuality to bestiality in the film and suggests that if LGBT Russians are allowed to live openly that it will lead to unchecked pedophilia. The combination of the church's attitude and the anti-gay laws are seen as a contributing factor to the rise in attacks against gay Russians.
5. The Online Trap
While the Internet has been a refuge for gay Russians, anti-gay groups have begun using social media to lure victims into violent traps. While organizations like "Occupy Pedophilia" claim they are only going after child molesters, many upload videos of vicious beatings of gay men who have been lured by promises of sex during outings the groups call "safaris."
6. Fighting Back
While these vigilante groups continue to mount attacks and authorities turn a blind eye, some gay groups are bucking the law against gay propaganda and are speaking out against the violence. In the film we meet veteran activist Kiril, who is shown organizing a protest. But, because gay groups cannot get permits, he and his colleagues must mount single-person actions on the streets of their town.
Because of the laws, though, the protesters have to avoid any mention of homosexuality in their actions, and even then they face harassment from police. In addition, many young LGBT Russians are afraid to come out and gay couples with children live in fear of having their kids taken way from them.