Cold War-set gay love story Firebird, following a real-life affair between a Soviet soldier and a fighter pilot, is opening in Australian cinemas this month.
The film is based on a true story, and is being marketed as Vladimir Putin’s “least favourite movie” ahead of its Australian release on May 17.
Sergey (Tom Prior) is a troubled young private who is counting the days until his military service ends.
But his life is turned upside down when fighter pilot Roman (Oleg Zagorodnii) arrives at the base.
Sergey and Roman navigate a precarious line between love and friendship as a dangerous love triangle forms between them and colleague Luisa, the secretary to the base Commander.
Roman is confronted by his superiors, who have been tipped off about the affair.
If they catch him, he’ll lose his career and spend five years in a hard-labour camp.
As the walls close in, the men risk their freedom and their lives under the all-seeing Soviet regime.
Ukrainian actor caught up in Russian invasion
British actor Tom Prior stars as Sergey Fetisov, who was a real soldier. In the film, Ukrainian actor Oleg Zagorodnii plays Roman (both pictured above).
Zagorodnii lives in Kyiv as his fellow Ukrainians fight for freedom against Russia’s invasion.
“Putin’s Russia is the same as the Soviet Union,” the actor declared in a video message at Firebird’s UK premiere.
“Because in Putin’s Russia [people] don’t have the opportunity to be themselves.
“In my country today, Ukraine, we fight for our freedom [and] our opportunity to be Ukrainian [and be] ourselves.”
Firebird screening in Russia sparks angry protests
Director Peeter Rebane said Firebird was a “labour of love” that has taken him years to get to the screen.
A colleague gave Rebane a copy of the book the film is based on, The Story of Roman by Sergey Fetisov, the film’s lead character.
“I read the story over the weekend, and it made me weep,” Rebane said.
“This is such a tragic, yet fascinating story.”
He quickly decided he wanted to adapt it into a movie. It’s Rebane’s feature debut.
Rebane said the project was challenging, with a complex love story and a great deal of period detail that they wanted to get correct.
He said the two men’s story was also “very unique” as he’d “never seen a film about such forbidden love in the Soviet military” before.
To the filmmakers’ surprise, Russia’s Moscow International Film Festival accepted the film last month. But the screening sparked outrage and angry anti-gay protesters at the theatre.
“Whatever your race, religion, or sexuality, it is love that matters,” Rebane said.
“I didn’t set out to make a political film.
“I wanted to tell the story of three people, living their lives in an authoritarian, hostile society, trying to find love despite having the odds stacked against them.”
Firebird opens in select Australian cinemas on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). Watch the trailer below:
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