Sundance gives standing ovation to gay documentary on Chechnyan purge

A gay man who survived torture in Chechnya received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival, where his story was told in a harrowing new documentary.

Maxim Lapunov was a victim of Chechnya’s ‘gay purge‘ which has seen LGBT+ people imprisoned, beaten, tortured and killed in gay concentration camps.

Local authorities deny the crackdown ever happened – “We don’t have any gays,” said Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov – despite countless refugee reports detailing the violent abuses they have suffered.

Lapunov faced 12 days of detainment and police beatings, and could barely crawl when he was finally released. Almost three years later, he smiled as he took to the stage to give a Q&A after the world premiere of Welcome to Chechnya at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

The “devastatingly brave” documentary shadows a group of activists risking their lives to smuggle at-risk LGBT+ Chechens out of the region.

Director David France employed guerrilla filmmaking tactics, intercutting the terrifying transport missions with secret footage recorded on mobile phones and CCTV cameras obtained by the activists.

Richard Hack is an award-winning author and journalist. He Is LGBTQ Loyalty Holdings' Vice President of Content and Executive Editor of

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