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network 25/04/2016 - 12:00PM

Documenting the Rise of Homophobic Fascism: An Interview with GOD'S WILL Director Beata Bubenec

Cinema Politica is thrilled to include Beata Bubenec's intimate, disturbing and essential documentary GOD'S WILL as part of our VOD (Video-On-Demand) launch in April 2016. CP Director of Programming Ezra Winton was on the jury that awarded Bubenec the human rights prize at Docudays UA in Kiev in 2015, and her film struck a deep chord will all members of that jury. Few films venture into the dark and unfathomable world of perpetrators of oppressive actions against other groups. In this case Bubenec's documentary offers a very unique and rare opportunity to see the perspective of idealogues whose homophobic rhetoric and violence causes real harm to Moscow's LGBTQ community, while fueling anti-gay sentiment in the wider Russian public.

Ultimately Bubenec's film is an incredibly intimate look inside a political and cultural process that has led to the passing of oppressive homophic legilslation in that country, as well as the violent subjugation of members of the LGBTQ community. GOD'S WILL is therefore essential viewing for anyone interested in understanding these issues as well as how a fringe fascist, hateful movement can rise and become mainstream and accepted in contemporary society. On the occasion of the film's online premiere with CP's new VOD service, we asked Bubenec a few questions about her process and the politics around the film.

Cinema Politica: Why did you decide to make this film and in particular focus on the perpetrators instead of those they are seeking to oppress?

Beata Bubenec: I met the characters of the film when they were conducting an action about an apocalypse in December 2012. I was shocked by their world view and lifestyle. It was difficult to believe that they were sincere; it was more like an eccentric show. I have never met anyone like them before and I decided that a film needed to be made about this new phenomenon in modern Russia.

How did you gain the trust of your subjects and can you talk about the school of filmmaking you come from in Moscow?

Enteo agreed to the filming very quickly because he was interested in a film about himself. He saw the opportunity to make his ideas more mainstream. Initially, however, we had an agreement that he would not interfere in the creative process, including the editing stage. I warned him also about the method of filming. There was a special method at school I was learning with the documentary cinema and documentary theatre of Marina Razbezhkina and Mikhail Ugarov. This method involves a very close approach where the artist dives deeply into the life of the subject who is being filmed, capturing his or her most intimate moments. That is why students of this school are also directors, camerapersons and editors all in one. Working as a large film crew, it is difficult to preserve the intimacy and natural behaviour of the subject’s life. On the opposite end, using the method of my school, the characters of the film at some stage forget about the presence of the director and live life as though the camera was not there.

Religion is used by the subjects in the film to justify disgusting and violent behaviour - is this widespread or isolated to a few individuals and groups?

Russia is an Orthodox country. Most Russian people consider themselves Orthodox. The ideas of the Orthodox activists are supported by the majority of Russians. Religion in this sense became an effective instrument of manipulation in the hands of Russian politicians. Furthermore, it is not limited to the laws against LGBTQ. The Russian government opposes Orthodox views and values on the whole to the values of the West, including both European and American influences.

Your film charts the rise of a fringe radical to a more demure, civilized individual who now has legitimacy and influence over political processes. What kind of understanding do you have of how this occurs in today's Russia?

When I began filming, I did not anticipate the consequences. At first they [the subjects] were marginal. Very quickly, however, they became leaders that sat in power and made new laws. This became official within the space of half a year. They garnered the support of Russian power because they appeared to be an answer to opposition protests. From the beginning, the Orthodox activists positioned themselves as people who express the opinions of the majority of Orthodox Russia, as defenders of Orthodox values. Enteo has emerged as a response to Pussy Riot's actions. He always talked about the value of information flows for creating mass consciousness. And now orthodox activists are forming the consciousness of Russian society. At first they were supported by Russian Ultra-Right wings, soccer fans, patriots. Afterwards, now many Orthodox activists formed the basis of the movement recently created in Russia as a result of the Ukrainian events - "Antimaidan", which united the ideas of Orthodoxy and Stalinism. This is a result of active anti-Ukrainian propaganda in Russia. Because of MASS-MEDIA's influence this ideology is popular in the greater part of Russia.

How do you think LGBTQ groups can use this film as a tool or platform to advance the cause of equality, dignity and human rights?

Many who saw my film said that it was hard to watch, in spite of the fact that there was a lot of humour. For me, horror can be found in this absurd situation when what is humorous at first becomes frightening. This is the responsibility of society: what was allowed possibility to develop when this was in its initial phase. Now in Russia a terrible process occurs and it is difficult to say what will be the result of these processes. Those who have seen my film said that this problem is topical for other nations too. When I filmed, I thought about how could fascism arise? Why do people not see the danger in its initial stage? Why do people allow the emergence of this hateful ideology? I hope that my film can be a precaution against the emergence of cruelty and impatience in society, because it shows how fascist ideology can become mainstream very quickly when it doesn't meet resistance.

What's next for you and the film?

GOD'S WILL is my first film, my course work at school of The Documentary cinema of Marina Razbezhkina. I showed it at the festival "Docudays UA" where it received a main prize. It was the first festival where the film took part. I hope to share my film with other festivals for more people.

Now I'm finishing another film, which I began filming on Maidan. It is about Ukrainian events, but not only. This film is about Russia too. My main character is an inhabitant of Chechnya, a past militant for independence in his republic from Russia. As a result - he lost everything. No family, no homeland, only one purpose left: war with Russia. In December 2013 he came to Maidan. Now he fights in the Ukrainian battalion named Aydar. I think that my film will be in great deal not about politics, but about human drama. I have just finished editing the film.

You can watch GOD'S WILL on CP's VOD service by following this link.


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