Children 404, from producer-directors Pavel Loparev and Askold Kurov, is a new documentary about LGBT children in Russia. The film takes its name from an online mutual support group for gay Russian youth, which in turn is a play on the common Internet error message (404 Page Not Found) that appears on screen when a page cannot be found. The title poignantly suggests that in today’s Russia, the LGBT youth are banished in a similar way that the recent anti-gay propaganda law bans the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors. (Last year, Russia ranked number one in teen suicides in Europe.)
Part of Vladimir Putin’s efforts to build an inward-looking and nationalistic Russia involves conflating homosexuality with Western culture in general, which lies at the root of Russia’s gay propaganda law that prohibits any positive information about LGBT people being distributed to minors. Since this draconian law came into force, the Russian LGBT community has been targeted with violence, intimidation and in some cases torture and even murder.
Children 404’s premiere, on 23 April 2014 at the Moscow ArtPlay Centre, was disrupted by angry anti-gay protesters demanding to know if any minors where present and belittling “Western depravity”. The protesters, who were already in the audience, made their presence known with signs with slogans like “Get Sodomy Out of Russia” and “Western Depravity Must End”. Some also wore ribbons with religious iconography.
During the disruption, police checked the identification of attendees, after protesters claimed that minors were in the audience. This turned out to be a false claim, because no minors were present, so no law was broken. The film resumed, and the Heinrich Boell Foundation (a non-profit organization striving to promote equality) held a discussion afterwards. According to Colta, an arts group that backed the film, the audience offered “cheerful resistance” to the antigay demonstrators with some attendees describing the disrupters as “professional trolls.”
Children 404,will also be showing at this year’s Hot Docs film festival in Toronto.