When I am reviewing films, I try not to know much about them, so I have no preconceived notions. So, you can imagine my surprise when the film ended and I found out it was a true story about the life of Sergey Fetisov, which he wrote about in his memoir “The Story of Roman.”
“Firebird” (1hr 46 min) is a full-blown romantic love story. The film opens at the Soviet-occupied Estonian Air Force Base in 1977, where we are introduced to Sergey (Tom Prior), who only has a short time left until his service ends, and he in deciding what to do next. His best friend Luisa (Diana Pozharskaya), who also has eyes for him, wants to become a doctor. But their relationship changes when fighter pilot Roman Medveyev (Oleg Zagorodnii) enters the picture.
Sergey and Roman bond due to their love of photography and the arts, and Roman even takes Sergey to his first ballet, “Firebird.” From there a love affair begins. Sergey is more open and wants to live a life with Roman, but Roman who wants to have a career in the armed forces must not be caught as it would end his career. In addition, at the time, if caught they would have been sentenced to serve 5 years in hard labor camp if caught engaging in homosexual activity.
The one thing I didn’t like about the movie is that everyone speaks English with a deep Russian accent, but in reality, I would guess almost no one would have spoken English in the Soviet occupied Estonia. Once I got past that, I enjoyed this movie immensely. The film is beautifully shot, and I truly enjoyed viewing the locations the characters found themselves in. In addition, the film benefits from amazing performances from its two leads. Tom Prior is mesmerizing as Sergey, really convincing as a naïve young man falling in love for the first time, and Oleg Zagorodnii brings Roman’s internal struggle out by mere facial expressions, making the viewers feel his pain and feel sorry for him.
According to Director and co-writer of the screen play, Peeter Rebane: “We live at a time when basic human rights, equality and freedom are still under attack around the world,” shared director Peeter Rebane. “My goal with Firebird is to reveal how different family models have survived even in the most repressed societies, like the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Firebird is a story about accidental love, crossing the border of friendship and searching for one’s identity in a repressive society. Now is the time to tell this true story, to foster greater respect for the universal human right: to love and be loved.”
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where countless people face homophobia (including being sent to prison, undergoing torture, and being outright killed), for wanting to express their truth. At the end of the film, we are reminded that in 2013, Russia passed a law banning “homosexual propaganda.” It’s a law that has resulted in more violence and hate crimes toward LGBT people.
If you can, run to Outshinefilm.com and buy a ticket for tonight’s Opening Night film, Firebird, at the IMAX at the Museum of Discovery & Science (401 SW 2nd St, Fort Lauderdale). If you can’t make it tonight, you can always purchase a virtual ticket. The opening night party follows the film.