Lora Zbanke fears for her life in Russia.
“The government is trying to erase us,” said Zbanke, from Russia in an interview via Skype.
Zbanke, 27, and her partner Olga Murzak, are attempting to make a film that will shed light on the issues the LGBT community faces in Russia. On June 30, 2013, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a bill which considerably limited the rights of the LGTB community. The law bans the distribution of propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships among children.
The film, titled Tomorrow, features a lesbian couple and their adopted child struggling to find justice in Russia after the signing of the anti-LGBT law. One of the women, a school teacher, is accused of spreading LGBT propaganda in the classroom and is interrogated by government officials.
The film is based on several different true stories, according to Zbanke. Her decision to create a fictional account of the events instead of a documentary is rooted in the fear of potential consequences.
“We have one TV presenter on a primetime TV show that said the hearts of gays should be burned,” said Zbanke. “It’s just a lot of hate. Gay people are bad, it is a sin, you should all just be burned.”
People’s fear of being associated with the LGBT community is just one of the obstacles facing the film. Sponsors and actors like the script but are not willing to attach their name to a film that will surely generate controversy, mentioned Zbanke.
Financing has been an issue for Zbanke, who said that none of the actors, writers, producers or directors will be paid.
“We have this great will, but we don’t have money or a lot of support,” said Zbanke.
Zbanke hopes people in the United States will sympathize with her film.
“Unfortunately, we are now in this situation where the best of us is struggling to survive,” said Zbanke. “Our own country does not want us. I feel like there will be a wave of very smart, intelligent gay people leaving Russia for somewhere else, because here we are rejected.”
Doug Hamilton, the operations director at Equal Rights Washington, believes it is vital that LGBT groups in the United States keep communication open with groups in Russia.
“One of the things that would help the most is if we had a direct way of communicating with our peers in Russia and find out exactly what they feel would be most useful,” said Hamilton. “Continuing to bring up the visibility, and as these things occur, letting people in America and the rest of the world know is [key].”
There is currently no concerted forum to discuss such issues, likely due to Russian laws that make it difficult for international non-profits to function in Russia, according to Hamilton.
“These are some things that should more likely be coordinated via the state department, via more diplomatic means,” said Hamilton.
In October 2013, Seattle’s City Council sent a letter to Russian consul general Andrey Yushmanov, condemning the new legislation.
“Russia’s proposed and enacted laws tear apart families; take hope away from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth; endanger health; and prohibit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from speaking freely,” the council wrote.
The consul general did not publicly respond.
To help finance Tomorrow, click here.