EPIX to Air Gay Athletes Doc Shot Secretly During Sochi Olympics (Exclusive)

8:59 AM PST 07/07/2014 by Tatiana Siegel
Courtesy of EPIX
Johnny Weir

"To Russia With Love," produced by Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn's Sundance Productions, features figure skater turned broadcaster Johnny Weir as host-interviewer.

EPIX is bringing a documentary about gay athletes to the small screen that was partially shot during the Sochi Winter Games.

Titled To Russia With Love, the documentary features figure skater turned broadcaster Johnny Weir as host-interviewer and chronicles two generations of Olympic LGBT athletes. The film is produced by Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn's Sundance Productions. Weir was on hand at the Olympics in Russia, which has strict anti-gay laws on the books, as an on-air figure skating analyst for NBC.

The documentary will make its world premiere Oct. 22.

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To Russia with Love examines human rights through the lens of LGBT athletes and includes interviews with legends Billie Jean King and Greg Louganis as well as the next generation of LGBT athletes who participated in the 2014 Olympic Games. Shooting worldwide in locations as diverse as Sochi, New York, Calgary, Toronto, St. Petersburg and Moscow, the film follows these athletes from the ice to the slopes as they bear the brunt of constant media questioning about Russia's anti-gay laws. Noam Gonick, who directed To Russia With Love, collected the Sochi footage without the consent of Russian authorities in order to protect the gay athletes who participated.

Athletes featured in the film include snowboarders Belle Brockhoff and Simona Meiler, speed skaters Anastasia Bucsis and Blake Skjellerup and four-time gold medal-winning hockey player Charline Labonte as well as such notable sports personalities as Calgary Flames president of hockey operations and USA Hockey personnel director Brian Burke, Olympic gold medalist swimmer Mark Tewksbury and Russian Open Games' Konstantin Yablotskiy and Elvina Yuvakaeva. To Russia With Love also features interviews and commentary from David Remnick, editor-in-chief of The New Yorker; actor and activist Stephen Fry and the Brooklyn Nets' Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay athlete in a major sport.

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"As gay athletes' fight for equality continues to gain momentum, EPIX is proud to provide a platform for this important global conversation," EPIX president and CEO Mark Greenberg said.

Howard Gertler, an Oscar-nominated documentary producer for How to Survive a Plague, produced alongside Elle Flanders. Michalchyshyn and Weir are executive producers, and Laina Cohn is a co-producer. Ross Bernard and Jill Burkhart are executive producing for EPIX.

Jennifer P. Honn is editing the film.

Sundance Productions launched two years ago with an emphasis on hot-button documentaries. Its recent slate includes the CNN series Chicagoland and Alex Gibney's Death Row Stories. The company is currently in production on Stephen David Entertainment's nonscripted series The West for Discovery Channel. Sundance received an Emmy nomination for the 2013 feature documentary All the President's Men Revisited (Discovery Channel). Its feature documentary The March received a BAFTA nomination. Sundance's Cathedrals of Culture will debut in the fall.

The pay-cable network EPIX also has become a home for hot-button documentaries, airing such films as TWA Flight 800, Schooled and Milius.

Email: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.com
Twitter: @TatianaSiegel27

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