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Statement from Festival Organizers Alexey Levin and Maria Shulaeva on the Closing Down of Side by Side in Kemerovo

Events that unfolded in Kemerovo in regards to the Side by Side Film Festival showed unfortunately that the bulk of society was not ready to withstand the test of tolerance. We have repeatedly emphasized and again reiterate that Side by Side Film Festival is not a festival for only LGBT people, nor propaganda nor advertisement for anything or anyone. Firstly, it is good cinema that interests many moviegoers, stimulating festival and artistic development of cinema. It is certainly true that the heroes of these films are representatives of the LGBT community. These are people who live with us side by side.

They are good, the bad, they are different - like everyone else. But they exist and they are part of our society, which is still not able to accept them. We believed that by holding Side by Side LGBT Film Festival we can change this attitude and start a dialogue, the outcome of which would seem the simple truth: that we are all people. In Kemerovo, by the way, a unique situation evolved. Preliminary surveys of the expected audience indicated that homosexual and heterosexual would be in attendance in roughly equal numbers. This contrasts to other cities where the ratio is usually 3 to 1.

We are pleased that the City Administration met us and initially was willing to support us, we are grateful to the venues (Palace of Youth and Planet Cinema) who up until the last moment were ready to solve arising problems and render necessary help. What happened next was the failure to listen to “public opinion” (on 19th April the City Administration’s Department of Culture in Kemerovo received over 50 phone calls from festival supporters asking as to why and on what grounds the festival was closed), but concede to that part of the population which is unwilling due to their rigidity and lack of information on human relationships not yet able to conduct a civilized dialogue (and, of course, not without the intervention of the "higher forces" some governing bodies).

It is particularly strange that this situation occurred in the Kuzbass, shortly after the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, represented by national governments of 47 country members (including Russia), unanimously adopted the "Recommendations on Measures to Overcome Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.” 

In spite of everything the festival was held in Kemerovo although at a private venue with limited space, unfortunately, for a large audience. However over the three days of screenings more than 100 people attended and feedback from visitors was the most benevolent and reassuring: "The main thing that the festival was held, and where it took place is not important, because everything is not done - all the better! !, "Thanks to the organizers, despite not having a festival you managed to and show really good films."  "I really enjoyed it !!!!!! Not for one second did I regret coming to the festival! I liked the films, discussions and the photo exhibition! " (From the reviews on the internet).

We had a great temptation to turn this whole situation into a scandal involving international legal organizations and the possibility of taking legal measures to resolve this conflict. We believe that this is not necessary neither for us nor those who in the future will be possibly more responsible for their actions and promises. We are prepared to engage in civilized dialogue at all levels. We believe that there will come a time in Kemerovo, just as in Novosibirsk, Side by Side LGBT Film Festival will be conducted officially and legitimately.

Organizing Committee of the Side by Side Film Festival in Kemerovo
Alexey Levin and Maria Shulaeva


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