In 2013, the Russian government passed a bill that forbids LGBT youths to promote their lifestyle, known as the “gay propaganda” law. In response, lesbian teen Elena Klimova founded Children 404, an online support group for gay youths in the country. Forty-five teens, including Klimova, agreed to be interviewed or filmed for this documentary. There share their candid thoughts about living in a world of ridicule. At school, they are taunted incessantly. At home, some of their parents deny they exist. It is hard for the teens to come to terms with their place in a society that denies them a voice.
Children 404 is a shocking film that begs to be seen. Directors Pavel Loparev and Askold Kurov follow a few of the teens into schools and film as students berate them. The intolerance is deeply unsettling to witness. Although several of the youths who agreed to be a part of the film have their faces blocked or are only heard in audio recordings, their stories are heartbreaking. It is brave for these teens to share their stories and daring for the filmmakers to try to capture them out in the open.
One of the most remarkable things about the doc is how the filmmakers bring their camera right up to the faces of homophobic students and citizens. People have no problem unleashing their views to the director or subject. However, the film does not just expose intolerance. It explores how these teens navigate their society and their families – some which have embraced their gay children. The filmmakers latch onto a Russian teen, Pasha, who decides to leave his homeland for Canada, with the hopes of becoming a journalist. To watch Pasha sing “O Canada” at the Lenin Memorial is unforgettable.