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First Regional Side by Side LGBT Film Festivals held in Siberia: Support and Opposition. The Fight Goes On.

Saint Petersburg LGBT Film Festival Side by Side assesses the Siberian leg of their 2010 tour of the Russian Federation.

In Novosibirsk the festival, running from the 15 – 18 April, visitors had the chance to see the best LGBT films from the 2009 Saint Petersburg programme, debate on topics related to homophobia, the rights of LGBT people in Russia and become acquainted with Lida Mikhailova’s photo exhibition “Coming out of the Closet.”

In Kemerovo Side by Side LGBT Film Festival was to be held from 17-19 April at two different venues: the state run Palace of Youth and a private run cinema theatre Planet Cinema. The festival was initially supported by the city administration, however, the very day prior to the festival opening there was a radical change in their position to Side by Side. Subsequently, the Palace of Youth refused to hold the festival and Planet Cinema, after pressure from the administration was forced to withdraw their entire support. Planet Cinema had been prepared to hold additional festival screenings, this however was made impossible when the director of the shopping centre, where Planet Cinema is located received a telephone call informing that all electrical power to the shopping complex would be switched off if the festival was to go ahead.


The festival in Novosibirsk, drew a great deal of attention from both visitors and press. During the four days of festival in the region of 700 people attended and journalists were actively interested in covering the event; articles in online media were viewed by up to as many 15 000 readers. An integral part of the festival was the photo exhibition “Coming out of the Closet.” At the opening a representative of the Department of Culture, Mr. Vladimir Miller, was in attendance. In an address to the audience he stated: "We are building an open democratic society, and sympathetic to the theme of the festival.” Julia Hanske, Director of the Goethe Institute in Novosibirsk, speaking as a partner of the film festival noted that today Germany society is much more tolerant towards people of homosexual orientation: “…and this is the result of such initiatives as this. She went on:  “Saint Petersburgers brought highly artistic film and we are pleased to support the Side by Side Film Festival.”

The festival program included a lecture by local film critic Alexey Kozhemyakin on early gay cinema in Germany, three panel discussions addressing LGBT parenthood, LGBT rights in Russia and coming out - the most problematic dilemma for every LGBT person in Russia. "It is no coincidence that we have taken Lida Mikhailova’s photo exhibition “Coming Out of the Closet” to Siberia. Coming out is a key issue for every lesbian and gay. If we refuse to come out we cannot achieve equal rights,” said Gulya Sultanova, Director of the film festival.

After film discussions were attended by numerous experts: psychologist Olga Andronnikova, genderologist Tatiana Barchunova, philosopher Michael Nemtsev, Psychologist Dmitry Andronov, Swedish human rights defender Peter Öholm, lawyer Ksenia Kirichenko and LGBT activist Alexei Chupin. The audience actively participated and debates were heated. Many questions were asked and people were keen to tell of their experiences of discrimination and further articulated their desire for change towards LGBT people in Russia.


Although the Side by Side Film Festival was banned in Kemerovo the event went ahead. The Kemerovo audience had eagerly anticipated the arrival of Side by Side and screenings therefore went ahead in spite of the opposition. Local organizers, Maria Shulaeva and Alexey Levin, based in Kemerovo found an alternative venue where three days of film and discussion took place. Visitors used the unique opportunity to express and share their views on the situation, as well as discuss a range of LGBT issues and concerns. "In spite of everything that was directed against the festival it was still held. Thank you very much. It's a real celebration for us!", commented one of the audience.

"According to the fifth article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone has the right to conduct and attend cultural events. We realized that right in Novosibirsk and it was an outstanding achievement and successful event in the cultural and social life of the Siberian capital. In Kemerovo, we are faced with discrimination. However, we will continue to work and pursue our rights,” stated Manny de Guerre founder of Side by Side LGBT Film Festival.


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