A Worm in the Heart

Shot in six cities along the Trans-Siberian Railway, this gripping documentary follows gay couple Paul Rice and Liam Jackson Montgomery as they embark upon a tense journey to detail the lives and stories from the LGBTQ+ community across Russia. Paul and Liam are Irish and British respectively, but were drawn to finding out more about the queer and trans lives in Russia because when they were younger and coming-out in their own countries, their own nation’s laws were deeply discriminatory to queer and trans people. While many western countries have legally moved towards more protections for LGBTQ+ people, Russia’s laws are either stuck or becoming more dangerous, in resistance to what is perceived by many eastern European countries as a westernizing colonialism. Really this rhetoric is a guise under which further Christian fundamentalism and authoritarianism can hold itself in power. Meeting with Nobel Peace prize nominees, drag queens, and ordinary folks, Paul and Liam learn more about the current state of the Russian queer community — providing both broad social and political overviews as well as deeply personal accounts from activists and nonactivists alike. Perhaps the most poignant point this documentary makes is how tenuous our safety is as citizens, particularly when we are members of a marginalized group. Many of the scenes depicted of the brutal repression of queer and trans people in Russia, mirror the violence we see rising in western nations against civil rights protesters fighting for Black lives, undocumented people, indigenous rights and trans survival. A Worm in the Heart deftly illuminates the need for queer solidarity across borders and identity, showing that our common right for a full and thriving life is one that we cannot remain complacent about.