Opening the festival was the Chilean film Young and Wild and director Marialy Rivas joined the audience in a Q & A after the screening. Also in attendance and committing their support to Side by Side was the Consul General of the Netherlands in Saint Petersburg Mr.Jennes de Mol, the Deputy Consul General of Great Britain Mr Ben Greenwood and delivering a video address was Ulrike Lunacek, a member of the European Parliament.

Over the course of 5 days, 11 screenings and 6 interactive discussions have taken place. Generating a great deal of interest was the discussion after the film Call Me Kuchu focusing on homophobic laws in Russia and Uganda. Participants included Stosh Jovan an activist from Ugandan, Robert Bierdron, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Igor Kochetkov, Chairmen of Russian LGBT Network and Stephanie Kulayev, a human rights activist from the anti-discrimination centre Memorial. The similarities between Uganda and Russia were striking. “When I was watching the film and I sometimes didn’t understand in which country I am,” comments Kochetkov, “the arguments of opponents against LGBT are so similar. I think this is linked to the fact of the problem of homophobia. It is clear that our struggle is for the right to life.”

Director Sara Broos (Sweden) presented her film For You Naked which traces the story of Lars, a famous Swedish artist, and Junior, a dancer from Brazil and the development of their relationship and the attempt to find a common language between each other. She states: “Usually in films about homosexuality there is an opinion, the point of view of the author. But in my film, I do not give a comment, I’m just telling a love story. It is unusual for such films.” Generating equally lively interest was the Q & A with Mette Aakerholm Gardell (Sweden) director of the film Not a Man in Sight. “I’m glad that between me and the audience mutual understanding was reached, said Mette: “The last show was one of the most successful in the history of my movie. The opportunity to show this film was very important for me because of the situation in which LGBT people are now in Russia.”

Within the framework of the festival a new campaign has been launched: “Stop Homophobia in Russia!” The first of three campaign advertisements has been launched and audience members are being invited to record short video addresses as to why they are against homophobia. These addresses will be uploaded and circulated through the internet.

In the next five days there is still much more to come: a collection of Russian LGBT films and a discussion on the (in)visibility of LGBT in the arts and cinema in Russia, a debate on the pros and cons of outing closeted homophobic politicians and Q & As with Michiel van Erp director of the highly acclaimed documentary I am a Woman Now and Lucy Mulloy director of the awarding feature film Una Noche.

To date the festival has attracted already over one thousand visitors.

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