Documentary: To Russia With Love

“I was outed in 1981 and it was not an easy time for me or for our society when it came to LGBT issues”, Billie Jean King

This documentary about Sochi features out tennis legend Billie Jean King, and is narrated by Jane Lynch.

All around the world, during the approach of the Sochi Olympics, LGBT people experienced a range of emotions from outrage to fear to anger as they learned of the growing persecution of LGBT people under president Putin’s anti-homosexual laws.

But very few of us knew what to do about it other than curb our usual enthusiasm about the Winter Olympics, post on social media, and leave Russian vodka on the shelf.

Some elite athletes, however, decided to more: to stand up for the cause and put their bodies on the line right in Sochi.

An original documentary by entertainment network EPIX follows the efforts of athletes including Johnny Weir, Billie Jean King, Jason Collins, Greg Louganis, Mark Tewksbury, Anastasia Bucsis, Blake Skjellerup, Belle Brockhoff, Simona Meiler and many more to raise awareness of Russia’s discrimination.

Rather than boycott the Olympics, as many Americans believed, these top-tier sporting heroes decided to stand up in the spotlight as the world’s media converged on Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

These LGBT athletes—and activists—chose to enter an unknown situation and risk their own safety in order to make a statement. The film is startling in the way in which flamboyant and outspoken figure skater and commentator Johnny Weir, speaks out against the anti-gay laws, the camera following his every move; and in which official U.S. Olympic delegate and tennis legend Billie Jean King is captured tenderly identifying with Russian LGBT activist Vladislav Slavskiy. King’s emotional first meeting with Vlad outside the Olympic stadium can be viewed in the video above.

King told Curve that participating in the documentary came about “naturally.” “I was just happy to meet [Vlad] and hear his story.” She saw the Olympics as one way to raise awareness.

“Sports are a microcosm of society and because athletes are so visible we have an opportunity to use our voice and hopefully be part of changing the environment where it is more inclusive and more representative of the real world.”

For King, the Sochi Olympics was a chance to really understand the plight of LGBT people in Russia. “You can read about things all you want but having the chance to meet someone who is living in those conditions is definitely educational and important.

I was outed in 1981 and it was not an easy time for me or for our society when it came to LGBT issues. We have made amazing progress in our country, but when you look at the current conditions in other places around the world you are reminded of how much work remains to be done.”

Narrated by Jane Lynch, To Russia With Love is a compelling documentary and essential viewing for any LGBT person concerned about global human rights and how to fight discrimination abroad.