Petersburg Authorities Shut Down Antifascist Film Festival

The St. Petersburg Times
March 30, 2011 (Issue # 1649)

The Open Your Eyes! Film Festival Against Racism and Xenophobia was called off hours before its planned opening on Wednesday, organizers said. The Mikhail Shemyakin Foundation canceled the event after its director was summoned to the prosecutor’s office and warned that a probe could be launched into the foundation’s activities due to the festival, organizer Yevgeny Konovalov said.

“We were told they didn’t want any problems with the prosecutor’s office, that the prosecutor’s office made it clear to them that it was better not to hold the screenings,” said Konovalov.

According to a report on the Indymedia web site, the venue was warned about the inadmissibility of holding “political events without prior notification.”

The telephone lines of the Mikhail Shemyakin Foundation were continuously busy when called on Wednesday afternoon.

Konovalov said that he had also been summoned to the prosecutor’s office. He said he was told about the festival’s cancelation at 3 p.m. — four hours before event was due to start. The organizers will look for another venue and hold the festival some time next month, he said.

Earlier this month, two state movie theaters — Dom Kino and Rodina — refused to hold the festival under reported pressure from the authorities.

The festival has been held annually since 2006. It is organized by the Russian Social Democratic Union of Youth (RSDSM).


Editor’s Note. Here is the story The St. Petersburg Times had already sent to the presses before the news broke that the authorities had decided to shut down the festival altogether.

Opening minds
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1649 (11)
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Open Your Eyes! film festival, an annual event held to confront racism and xenophobia, will be held this week despite opposition from the authorities, organizers said.

Earlier, two state-owned film theaters — Dom Kino and Rodina — declined to host the festival’s film screenings and discussions, explaining that there were no available slots in their programs for the events, but Dom Kino’s administrator was recorded on tape as saying that the anti-fascist festival “contradicts the ideology” of the city’s culture committee.

This year’s festival features “From Tajikistan to St. Petersburg” (Iz Tadzhikistana v Sankt-Peterburg), Svetlana Kenetsius’ documentary about Tajik migrant workers in St. Petersburg, “Love Me Please” (Lyubite Menya, Pozhaluista), Valery Balayan’s documentary about Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old journalist and anti-fascist activist who was shot to death alongside human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov in Moscow in January 2009, and “Russia 88,” Pavel Bardin’s faux documentary about a gang of Neo-nazi skinheads.

A number of international films will also be screened (see schedule).

Days before the festival was due to open on Wednesday, it was relocated to the premises of the Mikhail Shemyakin Foundation. Last week, the organizers received a call from Center E, the government’s anti-extremism agency, and were told that agents from the center would be in the room monitoring events.

“I think that if anything happens, it’s most likely to be on the first day, because the film shown will be ‘Russia 88,’ a film that was repeatedly banned and that was always at the center of some controversy or other,” said organizer Yevgeny Konovalov.

“[Any disruption] could come from neo-Nazi groups or from the authorities. To be honest, I have thought about the latter more, because there are always more obstacles from the authorities to the film festival.”

Neo-Nazis attempted to attack anti-fascist activists at the event on the last day of the 2009 festival. The police intervened and arrested 18 people, including both anti-fascists and neo-Nazis. They were charged with “disorderly conduct.”

However, Konovalov does not think that the local cinemas declined to host the festival due to security reasons.

“In that case, they could simply have said that they cannot provide sufficient security,” he said.

“The most likely reason is that any idea that comes from civic society sends the authorities into panic. Officials are always afraid that something might happen, and it’s easier for them to ban it than to let it go.

“I don’t think they really meant that they had a different ideology — i.e., a xenophobic and racist one. We sometimes come across such ideas with certain police officers — when they detain activists and then raise their arm in a Nazi salute — but I don’t think these ideas are shared by the Culture Ministry.”

The culture committee later denied issuing the ban, but human rights and anti-fascist festivals have seen similar problems during the past few years.

The festival is roughly timed to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, designated by the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate March 21, 1960, the day of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa when police shot at a crowd of black protesters against racial discrimination, killing around 70 people.

All screenings are free of charge, and take place at the Mikhail Shemyakin Foundation, 11 Sadovaya Ulitsa.

Tel.: 310 2514. Metro: Gostiny Dvor.


Wednesday, March 30

7 p.m. “Russia 88” (2009, Russia)

Pavel Bardin’s faux documentary drama starring Pyotr Fyodorov, Kazbek Kibizov and Aleksandr Makarov.

8:30 p.m. Discussion: The place of Nazi groups in modern Russia. Mechanisms of their formation, activities and role in society.

Thursday, March 31

In conjunction with the Side By Side LGBT film festival

7 p.m. “Prayers for Bobby” (2009, U.S.) Russell Mulcahy’s drama starring Sigourney Weaver, Henry Czerny, Ryan Kelley and Dan Butler. 7 p.m.

8:30 p.m. Discussion: How to accept the homosexuality of a family member in a homophobic society.

Friday, April 1

In conjunction with the May 32 Human Rights Film Festival

7 p.m. “Love Me Please” (Lyubite Menya, Pozhaluista. 2010, Russia)

Valery Balayan’s documentary about Anastasia Baburova.

8:30 p.m. Discussion: What is contemporary fascism and where did it emerge from in this country?

Saturday, April 2

3 p.m. “From Tajikistan to St. Petersburg” (Iz Tadzhikistana v Sankt-Peterburg. 2011, Russia) Svetlana Kenetsius’ documentary about migrant workers in St. Petersburg.

3:30 p.m. Discussion: The life of migrants in Russia.

5 p.m. “The Edge of Heaven” (Auf der anderen Seite. 2007, Germany-Turkey-Italy) Fatih Akin’s drama starring Nurgul Yesilcay, Baki Davrak and Tuncel Kurtiz.

Sunday, April 3

3 p.m. “Wondrous Oblivion”

(2003, France-U.K.-Germany) Paul

Morrison’s comedy-drama starring Yasmin Paige, Philip Whitchurch and Sam Smith.

4:30 p.m. Discussion: Predisposition of personalities to accept the ideas of Nazism. Can an ordinary person become a Nazi?

1 Comment

Filed under activism, anti-racism, anti-fascism, censorship, film and video, political repression, racism, nationalism, fascism, Russian society

One response to “Petersburg Authorities Shut Down Antifascist Film Festival

  1. Pingback: Petersburg Authorities Shut Down Antifascist Film Festival … | Moon Festival

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