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Lesbian and Gay Film Festival Side by Side Shown the Door in North Russian Capital Archangel.

Lesbian and Gay Film Festival Side by Side Shown the Door in North Russian Capital Archangel.

Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival has been stopped from holding a regional film festival in the North Russian Capital Archangel several days prior to its start. The festival was planned to take place from 7 – 11 July, 2010 at various independent establishments across the city: Hotel “Pur-Navolok”, Club “Koleso” and Café “USSR”.

The city and regional administration were informed earlier about the festival. Letters of support for the Saint Petersburg based festival were written by the British Consulate, Saint Petersburg, the Goethe Institute, Saint Petersburg and the Danish Institute, Saint Petersburg and sent to the city mayor, Victor Pavlenko. On 1st July a meeting took place between festival partners NGO “Rakurs” represented by Tatiana Vinninchenko, the Northern Council of Ministers, represented by Elena Khoroshkina and the head of the Department of Culture and Youth, Glafira Baleeva. At the meeting partners of the festival were assured that the local administration would not interfere with the proceedings of the event.

Up to 29 June agreements with venues stood firm. Precisely on this day, however, a city news information portal published an article that Side by Side was going to Archangel ( This information caused a wave of different reaction and soon became the leading article read by site visitors. To this date the article remains top news. Such attention to the festival caused the owners to immediately back out in spite of signed rental agreements. In the following three days all venues communicated that they were experiencing extreme situations “force major”: the arrival of a government delegation, fire checks, alarm at the possibility of unrest in the city and simply a refusal – without detailed explanations.

According to information received by festival organizers from various sources, the venues were probably put under pressure from the regional and city administration. The festival, which raised “inappropriate questions” on the problem of tolerance in society and the attitude of people to others with different sexual orientation, turned out to be unsuitable for culture and society in Archangel. The city authorities preferring to silence any discussion on such matters, forces the question as to the real presence of those values such as the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association in Russian society. The situation in Archangel is a litmus test for exposing a diseased pseudo democratic society.

The events leading up to the festival were not entirely unexpected for the organizers (similar events were experienced in Saint Petersburg in 2008). In Archangel, the situation however included further absurdities: 2 July the organizers of the festival were refused from accommodation, which had been booked and paid for two weeks earlier, in Hotel “Dvina” in Archangel. The reason: “A visit from a governmental delegation from Moscow.” All attempts to book accommodation for the festival organizers at any hotel either private or municipal in the city were without results. No room for Side by Side even in half empty hotels.

In spite of all the obstacles Side by Side Film Festival will take place and a press conference is scheduled for Wednesday, 7 July, 18.00. There will be the presentation of the festival programme and photo exhibition “Coming Out of the Closet.”
“If we continue to remain silent after the closing of an LGBT film festival it is possible to expect the closing of any event, which for some reasons interferes with the quiet life of the local administration. If this practice continues Russian society will filter these events which outrage the patriarchal tranquillity of a small city or capital. We will not be reconciled to the attempt to stop Side by Side and we continue with our work seeing that there is rising resentment among many people to the events surrounding the festival in Archangel” stated Side by Side festival Director Gulya Sultanova.


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