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Review: ‘Stand’

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New film explores a homophobic hate crime in light of Russia’s recent law.
By B. Root

On June 30, 2013, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed into law a unanimously approved amendment to the already-established bill “On Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development,” which extended protection against “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships,” in an attempt to keep children from being exposed to homosexuality as a “behavioral norm.” According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, the passage of this law “effectively legalize[d] discrimination based on sexual orientation,” and led to an increase in homophobic violence around Russia. Furthermore, Russian law enforcement seems to have no desire to take homophobic violence seriously.

StandCoverSet against this backdrop, Jonathan Taieb’s new film Stand is a fictional investigation into a gay-bashing that the main characters believe they have witnessed.

After taking a wrong turn, Anton (Renat Shuteev) and his boyfriend, Vlad (Andrey Kurganov), witness a group of people beating up a man. Anton wants to get out of the car and help the man, but Vlad refuses to stop. When they later meet a group of their friends at a bar, one of their friends who works at a hospital tells them about this man who came in with stab wounds and swastikas carved into his body, later dying from these injuries. The friend believes that this was a homophobic hate crime since it was similar to ones they had previously seen in the hospital. Anton is immediately convinced that the victim was the same person that they did not save.

Anton quickly becomes consumed with finding the murderers. Knowing the police will not lead an investigation, Anton persuades his skeptical lover to launch their own amateur investigation into the hate crime. After finding out that the man’s name was Nikolay, they begin reaching out to Nikolay’s mother, siblings, and anyone else who might know more about the victim, or what he was doing leading up to the crime.

As the investigation escalates, Anton puts more and more at risk to find the criminals. He is forced to decide what is most important to him: his relationship with Vlad or solving the case. As Olga (Veronika Merkoulova) says in the film, “One fire drives out another.” This is true for Anton even in the provocative closing, where everything comes full circle.

Stand is a timely film whose premise is unfortunately all too plausible, considering Russia’s recent LGBT propaganda law.

Available from tlagay.com.

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B. Root

B. Root is a frequent contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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