Mob threats end film festival

Side By Side event forced out of Novosibirsk.

by Jennie Kermode

"Youths gathered around the screening hall, shouting insults and it was clear from their discussions with each other and behavior that they were intent on violence," said the organisers of the Side By Side film festival in a statement released today. The touring LGBT-themed event was forced to bring its Novosibirsk screenings to an abrupt end yesterday.

The festival, which has faced problems in several locations due to an increasing surge in homophobia across Russia, had hoped for better in the Siberian city where it held successful events in 2010 and 2011. This year's screenings were being held in a multiplex on the fourth floor of a central shopping mall. About 30 young men, some bearing the insignia of far right organisations, gathered around the entrances to the building.

The festival organisers were particularly concerned because of the apparent indifference of the police, with one police chief reportedly having asked "Why have you circulated information about your festival? I don’t plan to be here tomorrow and protect you." Officers did ask the protestors to leave but did nothing when they subsequently returned. It was left to private security personnel to escort audience members and organisers from the venue and make sure they were not followed. Festival spokesperson Manny de Guerre has praised the skill of a taxi driver who managed to evade pursuit.

Novosibirsk is currently processing a law that would forbid people from talking about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This has caused an outcry among creative professionals as well as LGBT people and their sympathisers, but it is likely to be passed within the nxt few days. A similar situation applies in Tomsk, where the final leg of the festival is being held, but the organisers report that they have had no trouble there so far apart from threatening phone calls.

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