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Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival by Professor Dr Igor S. Kon

Response by Igor Kon to the article published in Moskovsky Komsomolets MK in Saint Petersburg

I have just taken a look at the article in MK (Moskovsky Komsomolets). What entertaining press we have

I was talking openly everywhere about how sorry I was that the film festival did not reach a broad public and the fact that it was not the fault of the festival organizers but the city administration.

Whether it was necessary to cancel the event at the "Bukvoed" bookshop I did not express any opinion this question is not for me but for the organizers of the festival and the owners of the bookshop. I think neither of them wanted a scandal let alone a fight. As to how great the danger was I cannot say.

I certainly do not regret that a discussion with skinheads didnt take place. This is obviously not my audience. As far as I know skinheads do not discuss books.

By the way, although the event at "Bukvoed" was part of the festival program the subject was not about same sex love but masculinity in the modern world. That is a much broader question and people wanted to discuss it.
 
Summary of the Festival

At the end of October I had the honour to be a jury member of Side by Side LGBT film festival in St. Petersburg. It was an incredibly important cultural event. People with unconventional gender identity and sexual orientation are an organic part of our society and world culture. Artistic, including cinematographic, reflection and perception of their problems gives us a better understanding of not only them but also of ourselves. 

World cinematography pays a great deal of attention to this subject. Didier Roth-Bettoni, a well known French cinema expert, in his book "Homosexuality in Cinema" (Lhomosexualite au cinema. Paris: La Masardine, 2007, 750 pages) presents a list of the 100 most outstanding important films (three of which: "Different form Others" (Germany, 1919), "Girls in Uniform", (Germany, 1931) and "My Beautiful Laundrette", (Great Britain, 1985) were screened at the festival). In its entirety  the whole list exceeds 6000 films.

Was the film festival in St. Petersburg successful? No doubt. Like all LGBT life in Russia it was held in difficult conditions. In May 1994 the first festival of German homoerotic and lesbian films took place openly in St. Petersburg at "Spartak" cinema with a very many people in attendance. In 2008 homophobes did not allow the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival to take place, there was either not a single club in the city that was courageous enough to host such event or at the very last moment they would discover some problems with fire safety and cancel the showings. This year the festival organizers were widely supported by foreign consulates who provided them with cultural centres, where there were no questions regarding fire safety.
 
[Contrary to the belief in Russia that LGBT people are only interested in eroticism] there was not one erotic film shown.  All small halls for screenings were packed and the audience was intelligent and esthetically sensitive. Discussions of the films and problems related to social and psychological matters were also rich in content.
  
It is a shame that the festival did not manage to attract more general public - including those prejudiced - but it that was not the fault of the organizers. Any discussion should invite the desire to understand and not to destroy each other. The main purpose of art is not to prove something to others but to contribute to one's self-development and to form one's own identity. Self-respect and taking yourself as you are, is far more important than what spiteful others talk or think about you.       
 
The success of Side by Side convincingly proves that an LGBT community exists in St. Petersburg and that the community is being cemented together not only by a common stigma but also by shared cultural interests. I hope this work will continue regardless however difficult the political situation in the country and in the world.     

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