Leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a law banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” was passed in Russia. Gay Olympians were faced with a tough decision: to take a risky stance against the host country and publicly come to the defense of their comrades, or to compete in silence. Popular figure skater and commentator Johnny Weir was challenged in the media to speak out against the country he’d loved since childhood. 

Speed skaters Anastasia Bucsis and Blake SkjellerupSpeed skaters Anastasia Bucsis and Blake Skjellerup

Narrated by Jane Lynch, To Russia with Love offers a rare and unparalleled look at the intersection of athletes and activists in Sochi during the Games, and a behind-the-scenes look at the Russian Open Games - the daring LGBT sports tournament held in Moscow three days after Sochi, thwarted at every turn by authorities. We meet Vladislav Slavskiy, the defiant gay youth from Sochi who reveals the systemic violence in the wake of the Duma’s law, challenging the complacency of guests of the Games from countries where LGBT rights are enshrined.   

WATCH EXCERPTS:
A look at gay athletes at the Sochi Olympics. View

To Russia with Love follows openly gay speed skaters Blake Skjellerup and Anastasia Bucsis as they attempt to make their national teams. Mindful of the need to support isolated gay youth, Blake’s goal is just out of reach — he’s the 33rd fastest skater in a field that only had 32 slots. Anastasia enters the opening ceremony with her athlete girlfriend (competing for the Canadian women’s hockey team) by her side, torn by the double standards in gay rights she sees around her. 

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Featured commentators editor-in-chief of The New Yorker David Remnick and Prof. Tanya Domi from Columbia University’s Harriman Institute look at the intimidation, stresses and structural impediments to athlete activism. Gold Medalist swimmer Mark Tewksbury asks whether it's possible for the day when athletes aren’t put at risk due to sexual identity.  

The film documents the cross-pollination of ideals and aspirations as Russia’s young gay activists come into contact with Olympic hopefuls and sports legends. Tennis champions Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King connect with Russia’s nascent gay rights movement, bearing witness and showing support; Olympic diving legend Greg Louganis shows up in Moscow to lend presence and guidance. Jason Collins, the first active NBA team player to publicly come out, participates in a panel at the UN and says in an exclusive interview in the film: “as an LGBT professional athlete I will continue to support those who are being persecuted in Russia, trying to make sure that we do not forget about them.”