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 course of the ten festival days maximum visibility and openness will be sort in order to bring the message of respect and human rights of LGBT people in Russia home to the public and authorities.
The major theme for this year is local and global processes of the LGBT movement, exploring the discourses and practices relating to LGBT politics, activism, sexual and gender identity rights at local and global levels. In total 37 films will be screened 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.
To open the festival is the Chilean film Young & Wild directed by Marialy Rivas. After the film 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 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 discussion for this year is an analysis of state sponsored homophobia drawing on the experiences of Uganda and Russia. Following the screening of the hard hitting documentary and multi-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 defender and activist from Uganda, will participate in the discussion, along with Igor Kochetkov (LGBT Network) from Russia. Also to join in the debate are Andrey Tolmachev a representative from Commissioner for Human Rights in St. Petersburg and Robert Bierdron, Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
A first in the history of the festival will be the presentation of a programme of Russian films: The Beginning, compromising of new work from directors from around the country. The discussion to follow will address the issue of the visibility (or lack of) of LGBT in art and cinema. Director Seva Galkin of the short film Three Times About It: He 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 dream of the sea. We are one of them .” And director of the documentary Not With Us Svetlana Sigalaeva: “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), organizer of the Beijing Queer Festival, Yang Yang (China) and Michiel van Erp (the Netherlands).
In cooperation with the Swedish documentary film festival, Tempo, Side by Side will be screening the work of film makers Sara Broos, (For You Naked) and Mette Aakerholm Gardell (Not a Man in Sight Not). Both directors will take part in Q & As following the screening.
Within the framework of the festival Side by Side will be launching an interactive campaign Stop Homophobia in Russia! Details to follow.