Finalist, The Sony Impact Award

Ben Steele (British)

November - December 2013, Russia

Hunted

Blakeway Productions for Channel 4 Dispatches. Co-funded by BBC Worldwide

Ben’s film enters the world of Russian vigilante gangs who, encouraged by recent anti-homosexual legislation, go on hunting “safaris” to catch, humiliate and abuse gay victims. He is there, and continues filming, when one 20-strong gang lure a young man to a flat and subject him to an intimidating filmed interrogation. One member of the gang tells Ben it would have been worse for the victim if his camera had not been present.

The gang’s plan to put their interview online will nonetheless mean a life-changing public “outing” for their victim in a country which does not accept gays. Tellingly, the gang members make no attempt to hide their identities. They are proud of what they do and fear no reprisals from the state. The film made a huge impact when it was shown just before the Sochi winter Olympics – raising awareness and triggering public debate particularly on social media.

Watch "Hunted" (UK viewers only)

Visit Ben's website

Biography

Ben has worked as a freelancer for his entire career. He started out when staff jobs were becoming a rarity and early on self-learnt how to shoot with the SONY PD150. Since then he’s filmed in over 25 countries and directed for broadcasters such as HBO, BBC1, Channel 4, Discovery and Nat Geo. 

Ben has filmed as a director / cameraman with explosive crews a mile below the surface of the earth in the Arctic Circle, on night raids with armed police in South African townships and with Romany Gypsy patriarchs in rural Hungary as they negotiate marriage deals for children as young as 14. He's also written for The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday and his first book Hell In The Pacific was published by Macmillan.

Judges Comments

“Ben was non-judgmental and showed great compassion – even to the perpetrators. He understood that that is what Russia is like today. This is a real film-makers film. He invested in the subject, worked hard to gain access and trust, showed incredible presence of mind in difficult situations, and captured that extraordinary atmosphere of homophobia. You came away feeling you’d learned something about Russia today.”