Authorities in Saint Petersburg, Russia
have effectively shut down the first-ever gay film festival there as it was
set to open Thursday.
The Lesbian & Gay International
Film Festival was scheduled to open on Thursday, but now appears
postponed at best after fire department inspectors closed the clubs
(The Place and Sochi) where the films were to be
screened, festival organizer Irina Sergeeva told gayrussia.ru.
It's believed that authorities also
pressured the state-run Cinema House and a private theater to cancel
their commitments to host the event, which pushed the event into bars
The gay film festival has been
controversial in a country where gays and lesbians continue to be
marginalized. State Artist of Russia Nikoli Burlyaev had urged
authorities to ban the festival, calling gays “perverts” and
“Russian authorities continue their
policy of homophobia and arbitrary unlawful actions by preventing
events organized behind closed doors in private places,” said gay
activist Nikolai Alekseev, whose Moscow Gay Pride Festival has been
denied by authorities as well.
“From the very first day I supported
the conduct of this film festival in Saint Petersburg, but already in
February I expressed my fears that the authorities will stop the
event on technical reasons at the very last minute.”
“The only major LGBT [lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender] event that could be organized over the last
years in Russia are the May 2006 and May 2007 LGBT conference that
were held during the Moscow Pride Festival at the Moscow Swissotel.
And still, it is only because we booked conference rooms in a local
5-star hotel belonging to foreign interests that authorities were not
able to play the same game with us,” Alekseev said.
Openly gay director/actor John Cameron
Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus), who was
scheduled to appear at Sunday's closing ceremonies, feared violence
threatened the gay festival. “We're still concerned about
skinheads,” Mitchell said before leaving the United States.
Organizers of the gay film festival
said it was unlikely the event would take place as planned, but hoped
to reschedule at a later date.
On the net: Gay Russia website at