Being unique can require bravery, especially in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The documentary Queendom follows Gena Marvin, a queer drag performer also known as Gennadiy Chebotarev, as she stands against the machismo of the Putin government and their anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs. Gena takes to the streets of Moscow in bold and surreal outfits, reminiscent of a Giacometti sculpture, often incorporating the colors of the Russian flag. Unfortunately, she often faces physical violence for her actions.
Gena was born in the remote town of Magadan, known for its harsh history of forced labor camps during the Stalin era. Despite causing frustration among the locals with her drag experiments, she gained a large following on TikTok before leaving for Moscow to pursue her studies. However, she was eventually expelled from college and had to return home. After facing difficulties, she sought refuge in France. As an orphan raised by her grandparents, Gena has a tumultuous relationship with her grandfather who openly expresses his disapproval of her identity and is irritated by the trouble it causes. He even pressures Gena to join the army, and although she shows up at the recruitment centre in uniform, she does not enlist.
At one point, the old man expresses frustration and asks who is funding Gena’s performances. However, it is clear that no one is currently paying for them. Gena is focused on establishing an online presence and hoping to make money from it in the future, which her grandfather is understandably skeptical about. It is possible that this film itself serves as a source of income for Gena, but it is also likely that she has a career in the fashion industry in Paris. While I would have been interested to learn more about Gena’s mother and the family’s background, this is still a captivating portrayal.