The new documentary “Welcome to Chechnya” available on HBO and HBO Max, looks at the dangers for LGBTQ people in Russia’s Chechen Republic.
To document human rights abuses in Chechnya, filmmaker David France posed as an American tourist and worked in secrecy to protect his subjects’ identities.
The film follows a network of activists as they work to “extract,” or rescue, those who must flee for their lives. The subjects have escaped torture and brushes with death at the hands of the government, vigilantes, and even their own families.
To protect his subjects’ identities, France and his team used a type of automated media technology to digitally swap out the faces of people fleeing Chechnen and Russian authorities.
France also talks about his decision to include violent footage intercepted by LGBT activists in Russia in his film. While Chechen leaders have denied human rights abuses, these video clips prove otherwise.
“Welcome to Chechnya” is France's third documentary. He also directed “How to Survive a Plague,” about the AIDS epidemic, as well as the film about trans activist Marsha P. Johnson. He is also working on a fourth film about COVID-19, though keeping mum on the details for now.