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Van Sant to Headline LGBT Film Fest

Spanning four different venues around the city, the Side by Side festival will include feature films and documentaries.

Published: November 21, 2013 (Issue # 1787)



  • American filmmaker Gus Van Sant is one of the few directors who agreed to come to St. Petersburg to support the festival.
    Photo: Side by Side / For SPT

  • Facing Mirrors is the first Iranian film to deal with transgender issues
    Photo: Side by Side / For SPT

  • Van Sants 2008 film Milk is a powerful biography of the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California.
    Photo: Side by Side / For SPT

American film director Gus Van Sant is expected to headline Side by Side, the annual St. Petersburg-based LGBT rights film festival, which is back despite legal pressure from the Russian authorities and a worsened climate for LGBT people in Russia.

Opening on Thursday, Nov. 21, the 10-day festival will take place at four different locations in the city and include feature film and documentary screenings as well as discussions. Van Sant will be present at the screening of his 2008 film Milk, based on the life story of pioneering gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk. The films co-producer Bruce Cohen and script writer Dustin Lance Black will also be present at the screening of Milk, scheduled for the festivals final day on Nov. 30.

Now in its sixth year, the festival opens during a bad time for the local LGBT community after a law discriminating against LBGT people was signed by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year. LGBT organizations have been subject to inspections and court battles, LGBT rights rallies have been shut down, a state-owned television channel described LGBT people as perverts and LGBT activists were attacked by anti-gay Orthodox and nationalist radicals.

It was difficult to get film directors to Russia this year, because people see what is happening here, and of course everyone is terrified, co-organizer and co-founder of the festival, Manny de Guerre, said. I made proposals to many directors and unfortunately they said, We dont want to come. Russia has made created publicity for itself. They are frightened, they see violence everywhere, thats the main reason. People are worried.

Dutch film director Diederik Ebbinge, whose 2013 film Matterhorn won a number of awards at the 35th Moscow International Film Festival in June, withdrew after hearing about the Nov. 3 shooting attack on an LGBT community center that apparently left Dmitry Chizhevsky, an activist with the Libertarian Party, blind in one eye. But according to the organizers, the films cinematographer Dennis Wielaert has confirmed his own participation.

Everything depends on the focus, on how you view it, Side by Side director Gulya Sultanova said. The situation has worsened, on the whole. The theme of homophobia has become a very populist one and is now being used by the authorities to deflect attention [from real problems] to something else; to show that there is some enemy that obstructs things. Also, theres rather powerful lobbying from the Russian Orthodox Church in campaigning against LGBT people. It exists and is exaggerated very strongly now.

On the other hand, the more active this homophobic campaign becomes, the clearer it is to people who have not yet lost their minds that this is a terrible situation. It all becomes more visible, and I can see clearly that we are gaining more supporters, more people who are ready to back us. This year, despite the campaign and homophobia being sewn in society, we have got great partners who were apprehensive but still decided to come out and support us. I am speaking of Russian partners, first of all. These include venues that have something to lose, and this year we have more media partners than ever before. That means that society is starting to assess the situation and make decisions. Many people have started resisting.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Oct. 30


Dental-Expo St. Petersburg 2014 concludes today at Lenexpo. Welcoming specialists from throughout the federation, the forum is an opportunity for dentists to share tricks of the trade and peruse the most recent innovations in technology and equipment, with over 100 companies hocking their wares at the event.



Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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