Heartbreaking true story of forbidden queer Cold War romance is a 2022 must-see film

Two men are seen kissing while standing in water in the film Firebird

A heartbreaking film has captured the dangerous queer love affair of two men living on an air force base during the Soviet occupation of Estonia.

Firebird, which is based on a true story during the Cold War, follows the life of a soldier named Sergey (Tom Prior), counting the days until his military service ends. But his life is turned upside down when Roman (Oleg Zagorodnii), a daring fighter pilot, arrives at the base in 1977, during the height of the oppressive Communist rule in the country.

The two men are instantly attracted to each other and begin a precarious sexual affair at a time when the Communist state harshly persecuted LGBT+ people. But Sergey and Roman’s lives are put in danger when a KGB officer receives an anonymous report that the two men have been in a relationship. 

The officer threatens Roman that he will lose his career and be imprisoned in a hard-labour camp for five years if they find out that he has had sex with another man. 

Faced with the ultimate decision, Roman ends his relationship with Sergey, who is ultimately heartbroken and leaves the base. 

The two end up reunited years later after Sergey moves to Moscow to study drama and open a successful business while Roman starts a family with another person. Roman eventually realises that his feelings for Sergey can’t be tamed and seeks to reignite their relationship.

But the men have to decide if they want to pursue their intense relationship while threat of persecution under the Soviet regime still looms on the horizon.

Firebird is Peeter Redbane’s theatrical feature directorial debut and will release in UK theatres in late April. 

Redbane stumbled across the emotional true story that inspired the film almost a decade ago after he was handed a copy of The Story of Roman

“I read the book over a weekend in my broken Russian, and it made me cry,” said Rebane. “This is such an intimate and powerful true story.”

He added the story was also “very unique” as he’d “never seen a film about such forbidden love in the Soviet military” before. 

Even though the film is set almost 45 years ago, Redbane said its themes are still relevant to modern audiences given “everything going on in Russia and the world”. 

Firebird will premiere in UK cinemas starting from 22 April.