Tag Archives: Side by Side LGBT Film Festival

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


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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Russia: A Bill to Silence Millions (petition) / LGBT Activists Crash NGO Forum in Petersburg


Russia: a bill to silence millions


Russian LGBT activists are detained for the simple act of publicly demanding their rights.

GOAL: 75,000
57,608 people support this campaign. Help us get to 75,000.

Political leaders in St. Petersburg are about to vote on law that will make it illegal for any person to write a book, publish an article or speak in public about being gay, lesbian or transgender. The ruling party led by President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin could make millions of people invisible with the stroke of a pen. Human rights defenders around the country are doing everything they can to stop it. They are risking their freedom to organize flashmobs and protests, but they are afraid that it won’t be enough. Right now, the world needs to speak up and tell Russian authorities to drop the bill. Join this call to leaders around the world to reach out to their counterparts in the Russian government – and ask them to reject this discriminatory and anti-democratic law.


The party led by Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin is pushing discriminatory legislation against lesbian, bi, gay and trans people that could eliminate their freedom to speak publicly and assemble. Russia is a signatory to numerous international human rights treaties – including the European Convention on Human Rights. We call on you to urgently speak out and hold Russia accountable to its treaty obligations – and stand with LGBT Russians whose ability to speak for themselves is under attack.


Sign the petition here.

You can see Sergey Chernov’s photo reportage of Sunday’s flash mob against the proposed law on Palace Square here.

On November 16, the International Day for Tolerance, Petersburg LGBT activists and their supporters picketed the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly.


Echo Moscow in St. Petersburg · November 20, 2011

Gay activists seized the podium of an international forum to be heard

On November 19, as part of Finland’s presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers, a forum for NGOs from Northern Europe and Russia opened in Saint Petersburg.

Among the announced priority topics of the forum were equality, tolerance and gender equality.

Representatives of the State Duma, the Government of Saint Petersburg, and the Saint Petersburg Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg (Vatanyar Yagya) spoke at length about how Saint Petersburg is a progressive city, and the protection of human rights is an extremely important task for the governments of Russia and Petersburg.

While one of the scheduled speakers lingered on his way to the podium, LGBT activists from the Russian LGBT Network, Coming Out, and the Side by Side Film Festival took the floor.

Igor Kochetkov’s speech was brief: during the minute and a half that he was able to to hold onto the microphone, Kochetkov managed to report on the homophobic bill [now under consideration in the Petersburg Legislative Assembly], gross human rights violations in Saint Petersburg and Russia, and the lack of reaction on the part of officials to complaints by citizens and organizations. He urged the forum to draft a resolution on this issue, and the forum’s international participants to inform their governments about the despotism of the Russian authorities.

During Igor Kochetkov’s speech, the activists, who had made their way into the hall in advance under the guise of forum participants and had nearly been put to sleep by the lovely speeches of the Russian bureaucrats, unfurled banners (“Tolerance is for society, not only for international forums!” Russia! Respect Gay and Lesbian Human Rights,” “Let’s Stop the Homophobic Law Together!” “Deputies! Respect the Russian Federation Constitution”) and handed out leaflets.

Officials and representatives of Russian and foreign NGOs listened to the speech in total silence; some applauded. At the exit of the conference room, as they hurried to leave the premises, the activists were met by a security guard who escorted them to the front door of the hotel.

An activist with a video camera who remained in the hall managed to record the following speech, by the Russian Presidential Plenipotentiary in the Northwest Federal District, which was full of sparkling humor. He said that the applause after the appearance by the activists was actually applause for Russia’s democracy, and that garden homes were the pillar of the strong Russian family.


Filed under activism, feminism, gay rights, film and video, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society

The United Russia Guide to Winning Hearts and Minds. Strategy 2: Fan the Flames of Homophobia

Russia: New Laws against Transgenders, Bisexuals and Gays
Polina Savchenko
November 13, 2011

On November 11, 2011, the legal committee of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly introduced a draft law prohibiting the so-called propaganda of “sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism, and pedophilia to minors” and [making such “propaganda”] an administrative offence. The bill was introduced by United Russia. This law seeks to demonize LGBT communities.

By combining homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality into one law with sexual crimes against minors (pedophilia), the members of the Legislative Assembly are indulging in a gross manipulation of public opinion. Their goal is to pass an anti-democratic law, directed at severely limiting human rights in St. Petersburg.

In the name of “public interest”, the members of the Legislative Assembly decided to ignore federal law, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention for Human Rights, Council of Europe Recommendations and other decrees by international organizations of which Russia is a member. However, no public discussions were held.

It is also obvious that adoption of this law violates the interests and rights of minors. Russia leads the world in the number of teenage suicides, and ignoring the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity can lead to tragic consequences.

This bill is absurd, both in terms of legal logic, and in terms of plain common sense. So what is the real goal? It is clear that adoption of this law would impose significant limitations on the activities of LGBT organizations. Organizers of public events cannot restrict access of minors to any open area; people under 18 can be there just by chance. Consequently, it makes any public campaigns aimed at reducing [homophobia] and hate crime prevention impossible.

Adoption of this law will have detrimental effects on the entire Russian LGBT movement. The only interregional LGBT organization, the Russian LGBT Network, the largest grassroots LGBT organization, Coming Out , the LGBT film festival Side by Side, and other LGBT groups are headquartered in St. Petersburg. The LGBT movement in Russia has become so noticeable that the homophobic government can no longer ignore its existence. The state is attempting to destroy LGBT organizations using the legal framework and to discredit them in the minds of the people.

Recently, a similar law was passed in Arkhangelsk. Today, St. Petersburg is the target, and there is a real danger that tomorrow it will be adopted on the federal level.

We call for the consolidation and mobilization of the international community in order to support Russian LGBT rights defenders through all possible and available means, including contacts with your authorities, dissemination of information to your media, letters of protest to the Russian embassies around the world. We received information about the upcoming bill just yesterday and will keep you updated about the developments, our demands, and in which ways you can support us.

Please, don’t hesitate to write to us with your ideas of support and inform of your actions, so that we ensure that our efforts remain coordinated to achieve the best impact.

In this time of real need, we hope for your help.

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Filed under activism, feminism, gay rights, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, Russian society

State-Sponsored Queer Bashing in Saint Petersburg

The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1610 (71), Friday, September 17, 2010
By Sergey Chernov, Staff Writer

The St. Petersburg authorities kicked a gay art exhibition out of the high-status Union of Artists Exhibition Center, where it was scheduled to open Thursday, organizers said Wednesday. City hall’s culture committee denies any involvement.

The Union of Artists Exhibition Center was one of the venues where Queerfest, organized by LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) rights organization Vykhod (Coming Out), was due to be held.

Vykhod director Igor Kochetkov said the culture committee put pressure on the venue to cancel the exhibition.

“We had two phone conversations with the Exhibition Center’s director, who said he got a call from the culture committee stating categorically that the exhibition shouldn’t be opened,” said Vykhod director Igor Kochetkov.

Kochetkov said that in the official cancellation letter the Exhibition Center listed “complaints from certain public organizations and potential visitors” as the grounds for the decision.

“It’s not only a breach of the agreement, because the agreement can be broken only by force majeure, but it’s also not clear how there could be complaints if nobody has yet seen the exhibition and we haven’t yet placed the works there,” Kochetkov said.

Culture committee press officer Irina Nacharova denied her committee had anything to do with the cancelation.

“The culture committee is absolutely loyal to LGBT festivals and events,” she said.

“The Union of Artists is an independent public organization, and it’s absolutely their decision what kind of exhibitions to hold, when and what to cancel. “

“The only thing is that the plan was to hold a children’s exhibition and this kind of exhibition at the same time, which is perhaps not quite appropriate. But there weren’t and couldn’t be any bans, because it’s a public organization and it takes its decisions independently.”

Union of Artists Exhibition Hall director Alexander Saikov denied getting a call from the culture committee when he spoke by phone on Thursday.

“The thing is that we have an exhibition of children’s works in the next room, almost 800 participants, and because the organizers published their information on Internet, people found out about this and started to write complaints to state bodies and us as well demanding not to open this exhibition,” he said.

“Later, it turned out that, when we had talks on Aug. 8, we were shown one sort of exhibition materials, but in reality it turned out to be entirely different. If I had known that the content of the exhibition would be like this, we wouldn’t have even planned to hold it, for sure.”

However, an employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed Thursday that the ban came from the culture committee.

The exhibition and the opening were hastily moved to a new location – the Vegan Club on 50 Ligovsky Prospekt, and journalists were asked not to disclose the site until 6 p.m. Thursday, in case the authorities attempted to shut it down there as well.

Queerfest, which is being held for the second year in a row, has not had any problems before.

“It went quietly last year because we consciously played down the fact that it was promoted by an LGBT organization,” organizer Kochetkov said.

“This year, the concept of the festival is devoted to equal rights of self-expression for all the people regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. As far as I understand, that’s what caused this pressure.”

Queerfest has been supported by a number of international figures, including Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit, Belgian-Italian singer Lara Fabian, British author Sarah Waters and U.S. film director John Cameron Mitchell.

“I cannot tell you how proud I am to have so many Russian followers, readers and friends. That many of them are gay, lesbian or transgender gives me especial pleasure,” wrote British actor and writer Stephen Fry.

“It has not been easy to be out and proud in Russia of late and it takes a very special kind of courage to stand up for yourself in such an atmosphere of enmity and ignorance. I think it is a very Russian quality to be so brave, to have such integrity and such a proper sense of pride and self.”

In 2008, the Side by Side gay film festival was thwarted by the St. Petersburg authorities when two film theaters broke their agreements and canceled the events.

Queerfest runs through Sept. 25. Check www.queerfest.ru for updates.


Here is a translation of the official statement made by Queerfest organizers:

The opening of the International Queer Culture Festival in Saint Petersburg has been threatened with cancellation. The directors of the exhibition center of the Saint Petersburg Union of Artists, where the opening and several other festival events were to have taken place, unexpectedly informed festival organizers that they were canceling their rental agreement with us. We were told by telephone that the reason for this was an insistent recommendation made by the Saint Petersburg administration’s culture committee that the exhibition center not permit the event, which the committee regards as “propaganda of homosexualism.”

If the culture committee really did make such a recommendation, then we regard this an act of censorship, which is forbidden by the Russian Federation Constitution. There are no legal grounds for government officials to interfere with the holding of the festival.

We have underscored on several occasions that the International Queer Culture Festival poses no threat to national security and public order, to the health and morals of the population. The fact that certain people, by virtue of their personal convictions, are unhappy with any social and cultural activity on the part of open gays and lesbians, cannot be grounds for arbitrary bans. In fact, it is the government’s duty to ensure that all citizens enjoy an equal right to voice their opinions and express themselves culturally in any manner not proscribed by law.

We call on the Saint Petersburg authorities to refrain from actions and statements that encourage the violation of human rights and Russian law.

You can find more detailed information about the festival program on our official web site: http://www.queerfest.ru

Press materials: http://queerfest.ru/index.php/mass-media-2/for-the-press/?lang=en

Contact us:


Igor Kochetkov, director, Vykhod (Coming Out): +7 911-902-1193

Polina Andrianova: +7 904-609-9706


For our own part, we think it would be more than appropriate for you to let the “loyal” folks at the culture committee know what you think about all this. Here are their contacts:

Telephone: +7 (812) 312-2471
Fax: +7 (812) 710-5515

Press Office
Telephone/fax: +7 (812) 571-0589

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Filed under art exhibitions, censorship, feminism, gay rights, open letters, manifestos, appeals, Russian society

Side by Side Film Festival: Was NTV Planning a Provocation with Fascist Thugs?

Last year around this time, we posted Sergey Chernov’s interview with filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell when he was a guest at the Side by Side International LGBT Film Festival in Saint Petersburg. The focus of their conversation was the vigorous attempt on the part of the local authorities to close the festival down. Yesterday we received from festival organizers a quite curious press release, in which they describe what seems to have been attempt by a local NTV news crew to cause a provocation involving fascist thugs at a festival event. One of the thugs has been tentatively identified as a member of a group calling itself Soprotivlenie (“Resistance”). If you check out this groupuscule’s program, you will find that point no. 13 of that breathless document reads: “We demand a ban on all propaganda that undermines the foundations of the family: pornography, ‘free’ and same-sex love.” And here you can see the family-values-loving lads and lassies of Soprotivlenie at what is identified as a “martial arts seminar for white Europeans,” in Belgium in May of this year.

So why was the NTV news crew hanging out with these fascists? Or are the fascists just big fans of Igor Kon?


Side by Side International Film Festival 2009

October 23­–31, 2009
Saint Petersburg, Russia
October 29, 2009
Press Release

Side by Side Organizing Committee Expresses Its Regret to NTV


Igor Kon

The organizing committee of the Side by Side LGBT international film festival expresses its regret that NTV and its news correspondent Viktor Chernoguz were unable to objectively cover the events of the festival. On October 28, Professor Igor Kon, well known for his defense of the civil rights of the LGBT community, was scheduled to present his new book “The Boy Is Father to the Man” at the Bukvoyed chain bookstore on Vosstaniia Square in Saint Petersburg. However, the interest shown by the NTV news crew in a group of shaven-headed men who showed up for the presentation of this popular science book forced the organizers to cancel Professor Kon’s presentation.


Members of "Resistance"?

On October 28, an NTV news crew led by correspondent Viktor Chernoguz came to Professor Igor Kon’s presentation at the Bukvoyed bookstore on Vosstaniia Square. A group of well-built young men with cropped hair arrived simultaneously with the news crew. These young men took up positions in the back rows of the room where Igor Kon’s presentation was to take place. To an impartial observer, it seemed as if the news crew was in charge of these young men: they chatted with them familiarly and made no attempt to hide the fact that they were getting ready to interview them. The festival organizers asked Igor Kon to hide, providing him with security guards, and announced that the presentation was cancelled. A squad of four police officers was summoned to the bookstore. The organizers of the event then waited until the public had left before transporting Igor Kon to his hotel.


NTV's Viktor Chernoguz Reads a Book Entitled "Vodka"

An outside observer might think that the Side by Side organizing committee felt unwanted: NTV correspondent Viktor Chernoguz showed no interest either in them or a world-renowned scholar. We are forced to admit that there is an element of truth in this observation. Neither NTV nor any other television channel has previously shown interest in the festival, whose civic stance is summed up by its desire to serve as an open forum for discussions about civil rights and liberties, the lives of people with different gender identities, and a society that is intolerant of nonconformity.

In connection with the cancellation of Igor Kon’s presentation, the organizing committee of the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival expresses its regret that NTV and its employees are forced to resort to provocations in order to cover the events of the festival. We would also like to declare our openness to all the mass media. Esteemed


The "Resistance" Will Be Televised

journalists! Homophobia is a mixture of fear and ignorance. Homophobia is a symptom of an unfree society. You shouldn’t exploit clichés that are so worn out that they’re nauseating. If you have nothing meaningful to say about homosexuals, then come closer and have a look. Don’t be afraid: homosexuality isn’t contagious. If any of you have forgotten, then we’ll remind you: we’re not in a prison camp. We are free people. Are you?

 Side by Side Festival Organizing Committee

Festival website: www.bok-o-bok.ru

Telephone: +7 (812) 313-93-41, +7 964 390 85 43. E-mail: info@bok-o-bok.ru, pr@bok-o-bok.ru


Don't Let This Man into Your LGBT Film Festival

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John Cameron Mitchell: OMON Backwards Spells ‘HOMO’

Last week, in continuation of what threatens to become a proud Petersburg tradition, city fire inspectors closed down The Place and Sochi, two nightclubs that had been scheduled to host the Side by Side International LGBT Film Festival. In the wake of these events and as the festival went underground (another proud Petersburg tradition) at secret screening locations throughout the city, John Cameron Mitchell, the award-winning director of Shortbus and Hedwig and the Angry Inch and festival guest of honor, sat down with Sergey Chernov to talk about the scandal around the festival, official homophobia, Peter the Great, the advantages of a strict Catholic upbringing, Samuel Beckett, Plato, and the beauty of old Russian songs.

Q: It seems as if you go from festival to festival collecting awards. Then you come to St. Petersburg, and it’s a totally different situation. When did you learn about the problem?

A: It was just last week that they found out that Pik [cinema centre] dropped out, breaking the contract. So they had been struggling for the last week to find alternative spaces. Then, the day of the opening, they heard from the space that the fire department was harassing them and closing them. Because they couldn’t communicate to all the audiences and the press so quickly, they were all going to meet outside The Place and talk about what was happening. Suddenly lots of police and rapid response units [showed up], as if it was a riot or something.

We were going to meet outside The Place, where all the audiences and the press were going. We also wanted to tell them what was happening, so there wouldn’t be problems, and also to let them know we had alternate plans for screenings. They have been already doing screenings today: we have a system where we’ve had to keep it private. It’s like the Soviet era, people calling each other on the phone. Avoiding the Internet. Continue reading


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