“A WORM IN THE HEART”
The LGBT+ Community in Russia
“A Worm in the Heart” is a “collection of never before seen stories of tragedy, strength and resilience from the LGBT+ community across Russia. The film follows the trajectory of the Trans-Siberian railway, as Director Paul Rice and Producer Liam Jackson Montgomery stop off in cities thousands of kilometers apart to meet with activists and non-activists to find out what it means to be queer in Russia.”
We follow a gay couple from Ireland and Wales as they travel on the Trans-Siberian railway through Russia, stopping off in multiple cities to meet with members of the LGBTQ+ community living under oppressive laws and harsh societal attitudes. The documentary details the extraordinary lives and brave stories of the diverse LGBTQ+ communities across Russia. It was shot in six cities along the Trans-Siberian railway and uses intimate interviews about current Russian life, featuring deeply personal and moving accounts from activists and non-activists alike. As we follow Rice and his partner, Liam Jackson Montgomery, we meet many heroic LGBTQ+ people who risk their lives to live authentically under oppressive laws and prejudices (including Nobel Peace prize nominees and international activists to drag queen performers thriving in remote Siberia).
Rice directed the film as well as appears in it. He also wrote, produced and was the cinematographer. He says he made “A Worm in the Heart” in an effort provide personal accounts of the current state of the LGBTQ+ communities in Russia, to call attention to the parallels from these repressed societies with western nations and send out a cautionary message against the rise of homophobia and transphobia, and to offer a universal message of hope that people should not remain hostage to politicians or governments.
While western nations were debating marriage equality and workplace protections for LGBTQ+ people, laws like the ‘gay propaganda law’ were being enacted in Russia making any public display of queerness an arrestable offense. “The subject and contents of this documentary are incredibly timely and important due largely to the current state of human rights in global affairs. LGBTQ+ rights are being almost entirely ignored or quashed in Russia. State owned media sources in Russia often dismiss or play down the plight of LGBTQ+ people in Russia, and the fact that politicians and those in leadership positions even refuse to acknowledge the brutal atrocities happening in the state of Chechnya against gay men is a glaring example.”
Rice says, “The people I met with along this journey have profoundly impacted mine and my partner Liam’s life, and I hope that this documentary will spread their stories and messages further afield. The LGBT+ community is not confined to national borders, and I believe it is entirely our global responsibility to use our voices to support the LBGT+ people of Russia and beyond.”