Side by Side Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) International Film Festival was founded in the summer of 2007 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Principally inspired by the successes enjoyed by the many lesbian and gay film festivals taking place worldwide today it was determined that the phenomenon could also be reproduced in Russia, bringing with it too the enormous societal benefits and change that other such film festivals have similarly achieved and are continuing to achieve on a grand scale throughout many countries around the world.

In organizing the very first Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in Saint Petersburg, October, 2008 realities and difficulties of the task in hand hit home when the festival was effectively banned by the authorities. The two venues, Sochi and The Place, were closed down by fire inspectors on the eve of the event. Festival proceedings were disrupted in a major way and organizers were forced to conduct film screenings and discussions at a secret undisclosed location. The unlawful measures taken by the authorities proved a complete disregard for the rights and respect of its citizens. In the face of adversity and threat organizers, however, remained unperturbed and continued with their work bringing LGBT cinema, issues and rights to public debate.

The second attempt to hold Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in 2009 was successful. Running from 23 - 31 October 22 films were screened along with 10 panel discussions and a closing concert at 8 different venues across the city. Attracting interest from both the LGBT community and the general public in the region of 2000 visitors attended the event. The film festival a major event and significant achievement - received however limited coverage in the mass media.

From this point onwards, working from a more strengthened power base, Side by Side began to markedly expand the breadth and scope of its work not only organizing an annual festival and special events (one-off screenings and discussions) in Saint Petersburg but much further afield in the cities of Kemerovo, Novosibirsk, Archangelsk, Tomsk, Perm and Moscow. Side by Side, when working in a new city or region, time and time again met with the similar kind of opposition as experienced in Saint Petersburg, in 2008.

In spite of the hostility and resistance the LGBT movement over the last 3 to 4 years in Russia has started to make significant headway. Increasing visibility of the LGBT community, greater vocalization and observance of rights for LGBT persons, winning over the support of allies (human rights groups, politicians, civil servants, journalists etc) to the LGBT cause, tolerant and objective reporting on LGBT issues within the independent press and media and a greater willingness of the general public to take a more tolerant and unprejudiced stance toward LGBT persons are among just some of the gains.

These successes, however, have not been welcomed neither by the government (a key protagonist actively and openly pursuing a homophobic policy) nor conservative sectors of society and subsequently the last 12 18 months have been witness to an increasingly hardening attitude towards the LGBT community and questions concerning LGBT rights within Russia. Illustrative of this deteriorating climate are:

  • Implementation of the law against the propaganda of untraditional relationships at a federal level in June, 2013.
  • Difficulty to obtain permission from the authorities for public meetings and rallies organized by LGBT activists and groups.
  • Failure of law enforcement agencies to provide protection to LGBT activists and representatives of the LGBT community when threatened with physical violence at public events, meetings and rallies.
  • Persistent failure of the police to prosecute incidents of violence, incitement to hatred and use of hate speech against LGBT community members.
  • Negative homophobic discourse within the media especially in state controlled television channels, radio and non-independent news agencies and press.

It is within this even more difficult context that Side by Side is now operating however we remain committed and through our festivals, special events, information brochures, online film screenings, news columns and outreach prgrammes we will continue to advocate for human rights and the propagation of a tolerant society where sexual minority groups and individual freedom and choice are both respected and protected.

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Side by Side Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) International Film Festival aims to establish free open cultural spaces in which homosexual and transgendered persons are able to affirm, question and extend their identities. We call for the elimination of all forms of discrimination and inequality based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender identity and gender expression. Through the medium of high-quality, intelligent film we seek to create a forum for discussion with society at large dismantling myths and obsolete stereotypes that continue to hamper the development of the LGBT community in Russia. By generating a positive dialogue we endeavor to facilitate change, fostering respect of human rights of LGBT persons and fundamentally bringing about greater tolerance and broader acceptance of sexual minority groups within Russian society today.


Our vision is a society in which all people are able to live freely according to their choices without fear of themselves and of those who are different; a society which, through all of its segments, improves human rights and accepts and respects diversities of human sexuality and gender identity.