Preview: To Russia with Love focuses on LGBT community in Sochi’s shadow

There were a lot of headlines and TV broadcasts spotlighting the LGBT community leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The country makes no secret of the fact homosexuality is viewed as deviant behaviour and that one could be arrested just for protesting in favour of that life choice.

CBC focuses its documentary lens on the LGBT community leading up to—and during—the Games from several angles. Narrated by Glee’s Jane Lynch, To Russia with Love follows U.S. figure skating commentator Johnny Weir, Canadian speed skater Anastasia Buscis, New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup and Australian snowboard cross racer Belle Brockhoff in the days preceding Olympic trials. With the UN renouncing Russia’s views on the LGBT community and Billie Jean King being named to the U.S. Olympic delegation, Buscis, Skjellerup and Brockhoff realized that if they did medal in Sochi they could be public spokespeople for their community on the world stage.

The well-rounded To Russia with Love includes interviews with LGBT activists in Russia who worry of reprisals after the cameras and eyes of the world turn away after Games are done and the challenge facing Konstantin Yablotskiy, who aims to host the gay-friendly Open Games just days after Olympic Games end.

Some of the most gripping footage is captured at Mark Tewksbury’s home in Calgary where he not only reflects back on his life post coming out and asks tough questions of Weir and the athletes over dinner. They may have high hopes of making a statement in Russia, but what would it cost them?

It’s a question they grapple with during their whole trip and reflect back on once they get home. Should they have staged a protest—as Tewksbury secretly hoped—or were the public discussions about the issue a big enough step?

To Russia with Love airs Thursday at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Check out this teaser for tonight’s broadcast: