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23 April

Festival Guest, Myriam Fougère, Talks More on Her Film: Lesbiana: A Parallel Revolution.

Participating in this years Side by Side in Moscow is the Canadian director Myriam Fougère. Her film, Lesbiana: A Parallel Revolution documents the womens communes of the 1970s and 80s and the phenomena of lesbian separatism. Artem Langenburg asks her more on the film and her expectations of participating in Side by Side.

In your film the protagonists talk about the birth of lesbian communes in the U.S. and Canada late in the late 70s. Although there are critical observations by people the basic tone of the stories is one of nostalgia. Does this mean that today there are fewer communes or such projects are in crisis?

For sure there are fewer lesbian communities now than there was in the 70s and 80s. What was remarkable then was how alive lesbian culture was. There was so much happening for women at the time, lots of political activism and also a very lively cultural scene. Womens bookstores were at the heart of lesbian culture, also offering books produced by womens publishers, with readings, discussions, and even arts shows. And there was womens music, with concerts bringing lots of women together. In that time many lesbian lands and lesbian communes were also being created. Some of those lands and communities still exist, although many have disappeared. Some have only a few members left, and some are still very large.

Is there a strategy of feminist separatism (including lesbian separatism) today and is it still relevant, important and effective for women's liberation in your opinion?

It is hard for me to say if lesbian separatism is still relevant today for other people. My personal opinion is that as long as we live under patriarchy it is important for women to be able to meet among themselves to better understand their oppression and be able to decide together what they want to do about it. I know that separatism is very misunderstood and not very popular now. But while traveling with the film I realized that some young lesbians still feel that need for women only space, they organise punctual events, an evening, a weekend or a week of activities where women can share their ideas, their goals, plan some actions, and enjoy each other company.

Some of your heroines in the film very briefly mention the internal conflicts within individual communities. What were the main reasons of misunderstanding and antagonism in your opinion?

Women have a lot of reasons to disagree. Within a group of women we often find the same problems we encounter in the society at large. We all come from different social, economic or racial backgrounds, we have different life experiences and different ways to go about solving those difficult issues. Different communities have different reasons to disagree. Conflicts and conflict resolution is a given in any group, women and lesbians are no exception. Some of the conflicts that I witness were around issues of disability -lack of access - racism, leadership, decision making, sado-masochism was a big one in the 80s, and what was called the sex wars, the pro and against stances about pornography and prostitution.

How do you feel having your film shown at Side by Side - enthusiasm and pride in helping the fight here? In Russia, where homophobia and misogyny in recent years are actually the state ideology, we are very far away from those achievements that you have made. What would you say to both Russian activists as well as those members of the community who are apolitical?

I am really happy to have been invited to Side by Side. I admire the courage and the efforts of the people who make this Festival possible and of the people who support it! I think that it is important to support the right of LGBT people around the world and I hope that in tightening our connections between different countries we can help each other make the changes that are still needed. I need to experience life as you know it before I can even give words of encouragement, I can only hope that you can find in my film some insights that makes life easier in some ways.