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Montreal activists fundraise for new doc about Russian LGBT kids

'Russia makes it criminal for them to do outreach and fundraising on their own' says Ryan Conrad

Credit: Courtesy of Ryan Conrad

Four Montrealers are the public face of a fundraising campaign to help pay for the documentary Children 404, which follows LGBT kids at Russian schools. The film is being made by two anonymous Russian filmmakers.

Renowned author, film historian and Concordia University professor Thomas Waugh is joined by another Concordia professor, Ryan Conrad, and the co-founders of Cinema Politica, Ezra Winton and Svetla Turnin.

“We were approached by the filmmakers working on this doc looking for support because the situation in Russia makes it criminal for them to do outreach and fundraising in their own country,” says Conrad, noting that all four Montrealers have met and spent time with one of the two filmmakers. “So we took it upon ourselves in the model of solidarity fundraising, which we in the West can do in relative safety and comfort. We can all contribute to this project with no strings attached.”

On their Indiegogo page, the Russian directors note, “Currently there are about 2.5 million LGBT children and teenagers in Russia. In June of 2013 Vladimir Putin signed into law a new bill that forbids ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors.’ LGBT young people are now defenseless because of this ‘gay propaganda’ law. It is now forbidden to tell them that they are healthy and not sick, sinful, or abnormal. Psychologists, teachers, and even parents could be fined or imprisoned for supporting LGBT young people. These LGBT young people are now being bullied and harassed [more than ever] by peers, teachers, and parents.”

Children 404’s main character is 18-year-old Pasha, who survived harassment and intimidation at school and recently moved to Toronto.

Says Conrad, “A lot of the stuff you see in the news is people from the West talking about what’s going on in Russia, but there are very few opportunities for Russian LGBT activists to speak for themselves and represent themselves.”

Thus, the doc is called Children 404, after the standard internet HTTP response code “404” for the “Not Found” error message. “That’s because [officially] these kids are not supposed to exist,” Conrad says.

The film is expected to cost $18,800, but the Indiegogo campaign goal is $10,300. Conrad says there are still two more months of shooting to complete, and the filmmakers hope to distribute the film internationally by the end of March 2014.