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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, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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