Stand, written and directed by Jonathan Taieb, is the heartbreaking and compelling story of a young gay couple trying to expose the truth behind homophobic crimes in Russia. Anton (Renat Shuteev) and Vlad (Andrey Kurganov) steal kisses before they open the door in the morning. They stare longingly into one another eyes, and then open the door and pretend they don’t know each other. In their apartment, they are affectionate and loving, but in public, they distance themselves from each other. When the two witness what they are sure is the bashing of a gay man, Anton tries to help him but Vlad stops him, trying to save Anton from persecution and possible gaol time.
When the couple’s friend tells them a man, who was most certainly a victim of a hate crime, is in intensive care at the hospital where he works, Anton decides to investigate the crime because he knows the police wont. Vlad isn’t exactly on board for the investigation but helps to make sure Anton doesn’t get in too much trouble. They enlist the help of Journalism Student, Katya (Ekaterina Rusnak), the daughter of a woman Anton works for. She helps them ask the right questions and find the right people.
Stand explores the complex nature of the laws surrounding homosexuality in Russia and how they affect people. Anton represents members of the community who want to fight back and claim the freedom they once had, while Vlad is more worried about the ramifications of their actions and how it will affect their relationship. With the police not investigating crimes against homosexuals, people are searching for the truth in a community of people afraid to speak out.
The film is a heartbreaking look at the reality of life in Russia for LGBT people. Stand gets you up close and personal with how these issues can rip apart someone’s life, relationships and families. There is the possibility that danger is around every corner, and that you can’t really trust the people you meet.
While there were elements of the film that felt a little clunky, the acting was phenomenal and the story was strong and insightful. The chemistry between Anton and Vlad was natural and strong with their scenes alone together appearing comfortable and beautiful. Stand poses lots of philosophical questions about becoming your true self through your actions. It’s not a happy film where everything ends well. There is not a single moment in this film where you don’t have an over hanging tinge of impending doom. You don’t feel happy, you feel mortified. Mortified that humans can behave the way they do, and oppress each other. Stand is a brilliant but sad film that shows you how helpless it can be to challenge the ingrained cultural hatred in society.