After playing 55 Festivals worldwide, Peeter Rebane’s enthralling, queer-empowering love story Firebird is finally opening in the United States. It’s been quite the journey for the director and his collaborator, Tom Prior, who stars, co-wrote, and co-produced this atypical gay-themed coming-of-age saga.
Based on the memoir of the real-life gay hero Sergey Fetisov, the film begins in 1970s Soviet-occupied Estonia, smack-dab in the middle of the Cold War as handsome young Air Force private Sergey (Prior) finds himself falling for hot shot fighter pilot Roman (Oleg Zagordnii). As the two embark on a passionate affair that plays out as if Top Gun were merged with From Here to Eternity and then funneled through James Ivory’s Maurice, the dangers inherent in being in a same-sex relationship in that time and place hang over them like a perpetual dark cloud. Prosecution for such crimes led to at least five years in a hard labor prison. The mere hint of such acts would be ruinous to a career, a life.
The film is a stark but sober reminder about the difficulties so many queer people as well as persecuted people in general, still face all around the world. But thanks to the strong-willed character of Sergey, Firebird is also a testament to power of living a life outside of the shadows, an authentic life.
Firebird is Rebane’s narrative feature debut. His directorial credits include the documentaries Tashi Delek! (2015) and Robbie Williams: Fans Journey to Tallinn as well as numerous music videos including Moby’s Wait for Me and Pet Shop Boys’ Together. He also produced the 2010 European Film Awards and the 2002 Eurovision Song Contest.
Prior’s film credits include, The Theory of Everything, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Iceland is Best, and Blood on the Crown. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made his West End debut in 2012 in James Graham’s Tory Boys.
Both artists currently have quite a few projects in the works but have been tirelessly promoting Firebird for months.
Awards Daily caught up with Prior and Rebane on the final leg of their U.S. promotional tour.
Firebird opens in theaters nationwide via Roadside Attractions today, Friday, April 29, 2022.