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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

Wednesday, Oct. 22


English teachers can expect to receive a few useful pointers today from Evgeny Kalashnikov, the British Council regional teacher, during the EFL Seminar this afternoon hosted by the British Book Center. The topic of todays seminar is Grammar Practice.


Young Petersburgers will get the chance to jumpstart their careers at Professional Growth, a job fair and forum featuring more than 40 major Russian and international companies vying for potential candidates for future positions. The forum not only is a chance to network but also to learn more about the modern business world and to understand what it takes to get the job you want.



Thursday, Oct. 23


AmChams Public Relations Committee meeting is scheduled to meet this morning at 9 a.m. in their office in the New St. Isaac Office Center.


Sportsmen get their chance to stock up on all kinds of gear at the Hunting and Fishing 2014 exhibition starting today at Lenexpo. Everything from rods and reels to boats, motorcycles and equipment for underwater hunting will be on sale so that any avid outdoorsman can always be prepared.



Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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