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Published on Jul 28, 2014
In response to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s 2013 outlawing of “gay propaganda,” activist Elena Klimova created Children 404, an online forum for Russian-speaking LGBTQ teens. For this, Klimova is currently awaiting trial and a St. Petersburg legislative assemblyman has filed a complaint against the site, complaining that it is “against the law, provocative and amoral.” For subscribers to Children 404, it’s a lifeline. Combatting isolation, this is their community in sanity, where their experiences of being bullied and shamed are understood as unjust. Last year, Russia’s teen suicide rates were ranked the highest in Europe. Almost daily, Klimova receives messages from teenagers thanking her for saving their lives. She’s also recruited a team of counsellors to offer free services online.
Eighteen-year-old Pasha quickly emerges as the film’s main character. He’s survived harassment and intimidation, and is committed to fighting back. There’s a Canadian connection to Children 404 too as Pasha decides to come to Toronto to study (and perhaps find a boyfriend). Additionally, the film’s crowdsourcing campaign was aided by Cinema Politica and Concordia film faculty Ryan Conrad, Thomas Waugh and Ezra Winton. Like Klimova, filmmakers Pavel Loparev and Askold Kurov have created Children 404 despite risks to their own safety, adding it to a proud history of underground documentaries fuelling determined political resistance.