Firebird: Tale of Forbidden Gay Love in Soviet Union

A romantic drama set in the Cold War-era USSR is based on a Russian actor’s memoir about his love affair with a fighter pilot.


In the Soviet Union of the late 1970s and 1980s, the setting of Firebird, consensual sex between men was punishable crime; usually 5 years of labor.

For high-profile military officer, under the watchful eye of the KGB, the danger of being caught and reprimanded was much greater.

Adapting The Story of Roman, Russian actor Sergey Fetisov’s memoir, director Peeter Rebane and Tom Prior, who also stars, offer a chronicle of love affair that unfolds under unusually dangerous circumstances.

Gay Directors, Gay Films? By Emanuel Levy (Columbia University Press, August 2015).

Turning from music videos and concert films to tell this true story in his first feature, Rebane has created an old-fashioned melodrama with sumptuous visuals.

Prior plays a character based on Fetisov, who died in 2017, 40 years after the story’s action begins.

At the Haapsalu Air Force Base in Soviet-occupied Estonia, Sergey is a private with few weeks left to his service. He enjoys midnight swims with fellow Russian soldier Volodja (Jake Thomas Henderson) and Luisa (Diana Pozharskaya), Estonian who works in the office of the colonel (Nicholas Woodeson).

Breaking curfew, the disobedient trio form the triangle that will define the drama.

In theory, Firebird is a potentially dramatic–and erotic–tale of forbidden passion, but the execution leaves much to be desired.

Release date:  Friday, April 29

Cast: Tom Prior, Oleg Zagorodnii, Diana Pozharskaya

Director: Peeter Rebane

Screenwriters: Peeter Rebane, Tom Prior

Rated: R

Running time: 107 minutes