The head of the Human Rights Campaign has fired off a letter to Hollywood studios requesting help in the fight to raise awareness about — and ultimately reverse — the hostile laws and cultural climate faced by members of the LGBT community in Russia.
Already engaged with NBC and the International Olympic Committee over the new laws that have banned "the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," HRC says that the movie industry is in a unique position to exert influence over the people and government of Russia.
"Hollywood has always been a dauntless supporter of LGBT equality — well before public support was easy or politically popular. Now that progress is speeding up here at home, I know you'll agree that we have a moral responsibility not to ignore backsliding abroad," Chad Griffin, the group's president, wrote in his letter to the presidents of the international divisions of 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount PIctures, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, and The Walt Disney Studios. The letter comes two days after BuzzFeed first wrote about the issue.
HRC requested that the studios take a two-pronged approach to fighting for equality: The first, Griffin wrote, is that Hollywood "take advantage of all currently-scheduled film premieres in Russia to make clear and visible statements of support for Russia's beleaguered LGBT community and of opposition to the Russian government's campaign of institutionalized hate."
The second request was one with teeth: Expressing to Russian officials that those laws could have a "chilling effect" on film production in their country.
Russia has become a booming market for movies; in 2012, its citizens spent $1.2 billion at the box office, of which only 13% was on domestic-made movies. It is projected that the country will become the fifth-biggest market by 2017. Hollywood stars have frequented Moscow for premieres, including Brad Pitt (for World War Z) in June and Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger) last month.
In the coming months, there will be a parade of American films to hit Russian screens. In August and September, audiences there will be greeted by movies featuring Matt Damon (Elysium); Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington (2 Guns); Adam Sandler (Grown Ups 2); Jennifer Aniston (We're the Millers); Seth Rogen and James Franco (This Is The End); Vin Diesel (Riddick); and Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake (Runner Runner).
Previously, Fred Sainz, the vice president for communications at HRC, told BuzzFeed that "I don't think movie studios can pretend that [all is well] when it's not. The premiere of a movie involves a celebratory moment that is associated with happiness, and these companies are making money off of this. That is not a fair or accurate accounting of history, at least right now for a whole segment of the Russian population, and it is incumbent on these companies as well as the participants in these productions to ensure that there is a careful accounting of what is going on."