‘Welcome to Chechnya’ documentary wins key award ahead of 2021 Oscar season

The HBO Max documentaryWelcome to Chechnya” won a big award recently from DOC NYC, the largest documentary festival in the United States. The film, which documents the efforts to protect LGBTQ youth escaping abuse from the Chechen Republic of Russia, claimed the DOC NYC Producing Award, honoring producers Alice Henty, Joy A. Tomchin, Askold Kurov and David France.

“The jury is proud to acknowledge the delicate touch, human care and creative gymnastics necessary to produce this powerful film,” the DOC NYC jury said in a statement. “The filmmakers gained access to this dangerous world in which the film’s subjects took great risks, and then used innovative technology to protect them, allowing these men and women to share their heartbreaking stories and inspirational acts of bravery with the world. Hats off.”

The documentary was filmed in secrecy with face swap technology used to obscure the identities of those at risk of persecution. In the film, we meet young refugees identified as “Grisha,” who seeks shelter in a hidden activist-run house in Moscow and “Anya,” who is smuggled out of her community after grappling with a heinous family situation.

While “Welcome to Chechnya” has been met with great acclaim at numerous film festivals, its biggest win yet may be via BBC Russia. The company has now begun streaming the film for free on YouTube in Russia and other Russian-speaking countries, where its impact could be most felt.

“Welcome to Chechnya” is building a strong case to potentially earn a Best Documentary Feature nomination at the 2021 Oscars, with strong reviews, risky filmmaking and a vital subject matter about an ongoing crisis. The project is also among the 15 documentaries shortlisted by DOC NYC, which has a track record of predicting future Oscar nominees.

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