Moscow Premiere has showcased movies that Russian audiences would consider pretty edgy, including LGBT themes – for the past 12 years. This year’s festival would have been the thirteenth and was scheduled to open on September 2nd. Unfortunately though, Moscow Premiere – One of the last remaining LGBT-friendly Moscow film festivals is being forced to cancel this years’ festival.
Think Progress reports that organizers abruptly cancelled this years festival after the city’s culture committee pulled the funding. Films such as Russia-88, a film about Russian neo-Nazis, and Zimny Put (Winter Journey), a gay-themed feature about an aspiring opera singer who falls in love with the thug who steals his phone are just two of the films that won’t be seen by Moscowians this year.
The head of Moscow Premiere, Vyacheslav Shmyrov says that “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.” Anyone is able to attend screenings for free with vouchers that are printed in a Moscow daily newspaper.
Moscow’s culture department cited economic concerns for the Moscow Premiere cancellation, however it’s largely believed that the funding was cancelled in an attempt to silence the LGBT community within Moscow and even Russia. There are numerous accounts across the web where the Russian government has actively worked to silence the LGBT community.
LGBT Rights in Russia have taken a turn for the worst in recent years. In 2013 Russia passed a law that banned “the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors.” The Russian government has used this new law to shut down any and all demonstrations that are even remotely sympathetic to LGBT people. LGBT films technically aren’t banned under the new law, but screenings of films with LGBT content have previously been disrupted by anti-gay protesters. The British film Pride, set in 1984, was the first gay-themed film distributed in Russia since the new law passed.
Russia still has at least one queer film fest for the immediate future: St. Petersburg’s Side By Side festival has existed since 2008, despite continuous opposition from local governments. In its first year, local fire authorities closed down screening venues the evening before the festival was scheduled to begin, and officials frequently express opposition to the festival programming.