In St. Petersburg, an LGBT film festival hangs on in face of Russian homophobia

| January 9, 2015
LGBT film festival

Photo Credits: Lida Mikhalova

It was a hot summer evening in Siberia when Manny de Guerre sped away from her own film festival in a taxi. There was no milling about outside the theater in small groups, no boisterous recaps or wine in plastic cups. That’s because there was too much drama on the streets.

On the second day of the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in Novosibirsk, a mob surrounded the theater, chanting homophobic slurs and threatening violence. Festival organizers, including de Guerre, complained to the police, but this was 2012, and the authorities were desultory at best. At the time, so-called anti-gay-propaganda laws were being passed in one region after another in Russia. Now federal law, they have been used to silence LGBT activism. Countless gay men and lesbians have been forced to emigrate or seek political asylum in other countries; others have moved more deeply into the closeted life.

Manny de Guerre, 42, is an Englishwoman from Newmarket, near Cambridge, and she embodies a Frances McDormand kind of beauty and candid charisma. De Guerre has lived in St. Petersburg for about 14 years; she was captivated by Russia as a university student and began to spend more time here in the 1990s when she was working on her PhD in Russian rock music. “Of course, being lesbian, I sought out places where LGBT people are,” she said. “It was clear that people suffered because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Nobody came out, practically. I mean, it was a rarity. . . . For a long time I had the idea of doing the festival. They exist in the U.S. and U.K. and Europe. I didn’t think it would be that hard.”

 

Read the full article In St. Petersburg, an LGBT film festival hangs on in face of Russian homophobia in The Washington Post
 
 

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