Russia’s Homophobic Laws Will Not Silence Side by Side LGBT Film Festival

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Russia’s Homophobic and Discriminatory Laws Will Not Silence Saint Petersburg’s Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, Which Starts October 25th and Runs through November 3, 2012

In the face of increasing discrimination and violence towards the LGBT community in Russia, organizers of the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival remain defiant. Throughout the festival’s ten days, maximum visibility and openness will be sought in order to bring home to the public and the authorities the message of respect for the human rights of LGBT people in Russia.

The major theme this year is local and global processes of the LGBT movement: we will explore discourses and practices relating to LGBT politics, activism, and sexual and gender identity rights at the local and global levels. In total, 37 films will be screen, and among the countries providing the focus are Russia, Uganda, China, Cuba, Chile and South Africa, places where LGBT movements are still in their infancy and face great opposition.

The Chilean film Young & Wild, directed by Marialy Rivas, opens the festival. After the screening, Rivas will take part in a Q&A with the audience. She states: “I firmly believe Side by Side stands as a necessary voice for the diversity and visibility of the LGBT community. We need to see our stories on the screen to understand who we are and be able to deal with an aspect as profound and delicate as our own sexuality.”

A major topic of discussion this year is state-sponsored homophobia, drawing on the experiences of Uganda and Russia. Following the screening of the hard-hitting documentary and multiple award winner Call Me Kuchu, which documents the courageous efforts of David Kato and his team to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the fight for LGBT rights in Uganda, Stosh Jovan, a human rights activist from Uganda, will participate in the discussion, along with Igor Kochetkov (LGBT Network) from Russia. Also joining in the debate are Andrey Tolmachev a representative of the office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights in St. Petersburg, and Robert Bierdron, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

For the first time in its history, the festival will present a program of Russian films, “The Beginning,” compromised of new work from directors from around the country. The discussion to follow will address the issue of the visibility (or its lack) of LGBT in art and cinema. Seva Galkin, director of the short film Three Times About It, comments: “We need calm conversation. We are, after all, the same as they are. We have the same aspirations, by and large. We fall in love, think about our career, as well as dream of the sea. We are one of them.” And Svetlana Sigalaeva, director of the documentary Not With Us, says, “I learned the lesson the hard way that your country, or your house, can be a prison, if you’re a girl in love with a girl.”

Other guests include Eytan Fox (Israel), Yang Yang (China), organizer of the Beijing Queer Festival, and Michiel van Erp (Netherlands).

In cooperation with the Swedish documentary film festival Tempo, Side by Side will be screening the work of filmmakers Sara Broos (For You Naked) and Mette Aakerholm Gardell (Not a Man in Sight). Both directors will take part in Q&As following the screening.

As part of the festival, Side by Side will be launching an interactive campaign, Stop Homophobia in Russia! Details to follow.

The complete festival schedule can be viewed here.

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Filed under feminism, gay rights, film and video, Russian society

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