A scheduled gay and lesbian themed film festival in St. Petersburg, Russia has produced a wave of criticism and controversy.

The first-ever Lesbian & Gay International Film Festival, scheduled to open in October, has had its share of detractors. Nikolai Burov, head of St. Petersburg's Committee on Culture, said he would neither interfere nor support the festival.

Harsher words were expressed by State Artist of Russia Nikolai Burlyaev, who urged authorities to ban the festival, calling gays “perverts” and “ill.”

With the recent announcement of a venue change from theaters to bars and clubs, it seems those brass-knuckle tactics have worked to some degree.

Openly gay director/actor John Cameron Mitchell (Shortbus) said violence continues to threaten the gay festival, “We're still concerned about skinheads.”

Whether you like it or not, Mitchell will be present at the festival's closing night, which will feature his 2001 gay boy-to-transsexual rock odyssey Hedwig and the Angry Inch – a classic for any gay fest!

A selection of more contemporary gay and lesbian themed feature films will also be screened at the four-day event. Including director Lucia Puenzo's daring film about an intersex teenage girl asked to decide on her sex.

'XXY' is the story of Alex.  Raised a girl her entire life, she possesses both male and female sets of reproductive organs. Now at puberty, she is being asked to “choose” her sex by her parents, who have invited a plastic surgeon to discuss the issue with her. Complications arise when Alex develops a crush on Alvaro, the surgeon's teenage son. He also is suffering gender identity issues. Alex's search for her true identity forces both families to face their worst fears.

The film's powerful message of love transcending sexuality is only heightened by its beautiful backgrounds and dramatic visual style.

Freeheld, the Academy Award-winning gay documentary about the lives of two women facing death and a discriminatory government, is just one of the eight documentaries included in the program.

The first Lesbian and Gay International Film Festival opens Tuesday October 2nd.

On the net: Festival website at www.sbsff.com/en