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Side by Side Lesbian and Gay Film Festival Tests Saint Petersburg’s Tolerance Level for the Third Year Running.

Russia’s only lesbian and gay film festival, Side by Side, is gearing up for its third season of films and discussions set to take place in the city of Saint Petersburg from the 15 – 23 October, 2010.

Over the course of the nine festival days the Saint Petersburg audience will have the opportunity to see in the region of 40 films from all corners of the globe. The 2010 competition program includes documentaries, feature films and animation. During the festival there will be the chance to meet Israeli director Tomer Heymann ("I Shot My Love"), Danish directors Iben Haahr Andersen and Minna Grooss (“Hello, my name is Lesbian”), Swedish animator Lasse Persson (”Bikini”, “Hand in Hand”), German actor Matthias Freihof, who played a major role in the film "Coming out" and the heroine of the Turkish documentary film "Me and Nuri Bala" Esmeray, along with many others.

As part of a special program of the festival "Love behind the Iron Curtain," rare films from former socialist countries will be screened including "Another way" by Károly Makk (Hungary, 1982), as well as "Coming out" by Heiner Carow (DDR, 1989).

One of the main events of the festival will be the world premiere of the Russian film ”Piter Moskva” by Dmitry Gribanoff, a director from St. Petersburg.

Taking place for the third year running the festival has not had an easy time with the local authorities being banned in the first year. The festival, albeit rather low key, did go ahead in 2009. This year the festival is gunning for maximum openness and will take place at various venues across the city, including a regular cinema theatre: Varshavsky Express, a freedom that has been denied to the festival up until now.

In a recent statement the Saint Petersburg Committee of Culture declared that they: “…are open to the holding of festivals and other events by LGBT activists.” The up-coming III Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival will serve as a proving ground for the local government – indeed just how true will they be to their words and to what level of tolerance will they display towards the LGBT community and the observance of the rights of sexual minority groups?


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