The Knockturnal was on the scene this past week for the Firebird premiere at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles. Starring Tom Prior, Oleg Zagorodnii, Diana Pozharskaya, Jake-Thomas Henderson, Margus Prangel and Nicholas Woodeson. Based on a true story about Sergey Fetisov during the Cold War, Firebird follows a young Sergey, played by Tom Prior, who develops a relationship with a charismatic fighter pilot Roman, played by Oleg Zagorodnii, on an Air Force base in occupied Estonia at the height of 1970’s Communist rule. The film is based off of Sergey true story of forbidden love and is a passionate love story set against the backdrop of war torn and occupied Estonia.
Sergey Fetisov was born on August 12, 1952 in Oryol, Soviet Russia. He served his two year mandatory conscription, which was normal for every Soviet man to undergo, in the 1970s at the Soviet Air Force Base in occupied Estonia. Here he fell in love with a young fighter pilot, and our film begins. Sergey published his memoir “A Tale About Roman” in the early ’90s under the pseudonym Sergey Nizhny. The story is one of courage, love and fear during the height of the Cold War, and following his heart in the face of all the dangers of the Soviet Union at the time. It is a testament and example of true love, and echoes the same message of many queer films that love is love.
The film opens with Sergey, Tom Prior, a young soldier who dreams of becoming an actor in Moscow, who is counting the days until his military service ends. His life is turned upside down when he locks eyes with Roman, Oleg Zagorodnii, a fighter pilot newly assigned to his base. Driven by their undeniable attraction, Sergey and Roman navigate the precarious line between love and friendship at a time when Soviet men in uniform caught having a sexual affair was met with the severest punishment. As their friendship grows into love, the men risk their freedom and their lives to be together in the face of an all-seeing Soviet regime.
Director and co-writer Peeter Rebane said, “We live at a time when basic human rights, equality and freedom are once again under attack around the world. Same sex families are still illegal or discriminated against in many countries, including modern day Russia. I trust that telling Sergey’s true story helps people to understand others who are different from them, to realize that love is love, or as Sergey says: ‘My love was no less than your love.’ At the core, this film is about having the courage to overcome one’s fears and choose love. It’s a story about discovering your identity in an authoritarian society, while navigating the border between love and friendship. How do you deal with conflicting feelings when there is nobody to talk to, asking: ‘Is it right to feel like this?’ or ‘How can I be with the person I love?'”. Another aspect of the film that is quite unique is lead actor Tom Prior, who became a co-writer as the filming progressed. Prior was approached to play Sergey before becoming involved in the writing process. Being a writer and a performer presented some new challenges for the British actor who said, “Sometimes I would walk into a scene, and it would be completely different to how I had imagined it when we were writing the script,” said Prior. Prior and Rebane lived and breathed this story for two years while developing the script until finally being able to share the masterpiece with us.
At the premiere, the event also featured a short film premiere from Ukranian director Maxim Varen and his team titled “Past Lives” starring Panagiotis Margetis and Francisco Martos. We got to talk to him as well about his movie and how excited he was to share it with us and watch Firebird.
Firebird is now playing in cinemas, so don’t forget to check it out as well as our interviews and behind the scenes TikTok above!