By JAMIE BERARDI
June 11, 2013 marked a devastating day in history for the LGBTQ community in Russia, when the Federal Assembly passed a gay propaganda law. The law was intended to protect children from being exposed to “homonormativity”, meaning that any media that represents homosexuality as a norm in society goes against Russia’s traditional family values. After the law passed, Russia’s LGBTQ underwent a reign of terror, with videos and photos of the brutal treatment of Russia’s LGBTQ community by their government going viral. Local Torontonian writer/director, Blake Mawson tackled these themes in his new groundbreaking horror short-film, Pyotr495, which has performed well on the international festival circuit, and is available to be seen on Vimeo (watch below).
Pyotr495 takes place one night in present day Moscow, Russia, as a 16-year-old boy named Pyotr (Alex Ozerov of The Americans & Orphan Black) is lured into an apartment using a Grindr/Tinder-type app to be brutally tortured by a group of ultra-nationalists. The film opens with Pyotr venturing out into the night on his scooter to meet up with the man he met through the app. After we find Pyotr in this dangerous predicament, we also discover that everything is not as it seems and Pyotr also has a dark secret of his own.
While the Western world is fighting battles of its own with regard to LGBTQ rights, it’s still hard to imagine a reality where lives are in peril over this very subject. Pyotr495 is effective as an eye-opener for those who aren’t aware of the homonormativity laws, but also provides us with a platform to discuss these important issues further, wherein we can explore solutions to end the real-life horrors of bigotry and oppression. While some short films feel abstract or unsolved regarding the plot due to time constraints, Pyotr495 had a clear beginning, middle, and end with a driving poignant message- which made the viewing experience highly enjoyable and thought-provoking. With far too many people speaking out against the harassment and violence that they have faced at the hands of men and the continued unsettling global political climate, Pyotr495 is an essential short, now more so than ever. With strong characterization, a solid script and gore aplenty, the short’s surprise twist at the end will leave a smile on your face, in spite of the harrowing subject matter.