Groundbreaking Russian Film Festival Cancelled as LGBT Community’s Toxic Climate Persists

Moscow Premiere—Russia’s only LGBT film festival—has been cancelled according to the city’s culture committee, which pulled funding from the festival just days before its planned September 2 premiere.

Moscow’s cultural committee attributed the cancellation to a “difficult economic situation.” This would have been Moscow Premiere’s 13th year of showing avant-garde, often controversial films championing LGBT and anti-fascist agendas free of charge. The festival often debuted films that were rejected from the nation’s more mainstream film festival, Kinotavr, including Russia-88 and Winter Path.

It will be replaced by a “positive, youth-oriented” alternative called The Youth Festival of Life Affirming Film, which will run this year from September 4–7.

The replacement festival is headed by Yevgeny Gerasimov, a city council member and member of United Russia, the Kremlin’s ruling party. As Dazed notes, in Russia, it is illegal to show films featuring homosexuality to people under 18, so this new emphasis on youth is really just a covert way of making sure the content won’t be shown.

Winter Path (2013), still.

Winter Path (2013), still.

The dissolution of Moscow Premiere comes amid a toxic climate for the LGBT community in Russia. In June 2013, the State Duma passed the aforementioned law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors, adding to several preexisting regional laws that seek to penalize so-called “propaganda” of homosexuality.

Film critic and Moscow Premiere head Vyacheslav Shmyrov told Russian newspaper Noviye Izvestia: “We cannot affiliate to the new festival—not least in terms of our self-esteem.”

“Moscow Premiere is primarily a social festival and a charity project that exists for those people, especially the older generation, who can not afford to go to the movies. It is mainly a social mission,” he continued.

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