By Marcus Scott
Nelson Mandela once said, "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." Judging by Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi organizing committee, who tried in vein to overturn athletes from speaking out about politics in official interview zones in the Olympic Park, not so...
Sports have, more or less, always been viewed as the epitome of masculinity, becoming a chief deciding factor between men and women, "alpha" or "beta" since the dawn of man. Being seen as less masculine or tough isn't likely to make one popular, and may cause misinterpretation or segregation. If you're non-heterosexual, it may even cause inexplicable hate and homophobia or even mental, emotional or physical bullying. At the Roza Khutor Alpine Resort in Sochi, a city of Krasnodar Krai, Russia, where the country hosts the XXII Olympic Winter Games, if you fall in the latter, it may mean something worse.
The road to the 2014 Games was marked by heinous controversies including allegations and live-tweeting of hotel experience atrocities, and cost overruns that originally budgeted at $12 billion before ballooning to expand to over $51.4 billion. But by far the biggest controversy is the rising concerns for the welfare and human rights of LGBT athletes and allies due to the country's tyrannical anti-gay law restrictions on the promotion of same-sex relationships and freedom of speech. Not to mention, the government's indifference to the rise of violence perpetrated by Russian neo-Nazi street gang vigilantes who are terrorizing local and visiting LGBT.
But a group of filmmakers are speaking out loud, particularly Michael Rohrbaugh and The Perez Bros. who shared videos that are quickly going viral across the web with Rohrbaugh's film being picked up by Upworthy and The Perez Bros. by Gay.com.
Award-winning directors The Perez Bros. gave the boxing blood sport the double whammy of a lifetime with a high quality short film "The Weigh In." Starring actors Brian Patterson and Taylor Lambert, the short was inspired by the Perez's film production work with Showtime Sports and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and confronts stereotypes in the world of contact sports. Taking the old but familiar "Rocky"-esque lead-up and climaxing with a kiss-off to anti-gay critics.
While Michael Rohrbaugh's film, as part of The Fair Games Project, reads almost like a headline you'll find on The Onion: "Russia Declares Discrimination Newest Olympic Sport." Rohrbaugh, whose rap sheet includes stints with The Oprah Winfrey Network, Nick Jr. and Broadway's "La Boheme" under the tutelage of Baz Luhrmann, takes inspiration straight out of the Russian zeitgeist. His daring exploration of a newly engaged couple being perused and gay-bashed by a football team in front of a sold-out cheering arena-judges holding scorecards in tow-is as innovative as it is spine-tingling.
Despite all of this, Russia has not been moved much by the protests, especially considering the fact that 88 percent of the Russian people sanction the LGBT propaganda ban, according to a June 2013 study administered by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center. But the reaction and support from the international LGBT community, especially those in the West, has been heartwarming and gives hope to countries stricken with homophobia. Check out these films, and hopefully they will garner the support they so deserve.