Elena Milashina has been an investigative journalist at Novaya Gazeta for over 20 years. Since the murder of Anna Politkovskaya in October 2006 Elena regularly writes about human rights violations, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detainment, extrajudicial killings, and torture in Chechnya, as well as women’s rights and LGBT rights in that region.

In April of last year together with her colleagues she published a series of articles on the large-scale campaign organised by the Chechen authorities against homosexual and bisexual men in the region. Throughout the year that followed Novaya Gazeta and the LGBT Network managed to save over 100 people from death and torture. 

“It is with great pleasure that I agreed to join the jury of this year’s Side by Side, even though I am not a big art and cinema connoisseur. I like the fact that this festival has a strong civic position. The issue that it raises – xenophobia – is foremost in Russia today. Our country overflows with it, and the authorities use it to manipulate people. How to manage one’s fears and stand up to bigotry? This festival helps find answers to these questions.” 




Activist with the LGBT initiative Coming Out since 2008 and one of the organisers of QUEERFEST since 2014. Founded international eco festival Kislorod in 2014.

“Cultural projects are an important attempt to create an open conversation within society through different art forms. It is with their help that we speak with the world using a complex yet understandable language. Listening to music, watching films, plays, looking at photographs, reading books and human stories people participate in that conversation, interpreting what they heard and saw in their own way. For me it is an opportunity to tell the world individual stories, give voice to those who were not given one, and create a safe space for people to speak of what is important to them.”




Cinema Historian and Film Critic. Writes for Art of Cinema and kinoart.ru. PhD in Art History.

"The films in the festival’s programme have universal significance. They challenge you to be true to yourself."




Merle Groneweg is a queer film enthusiast. She has been part of the XPOSED International Queer Film Festival, Berlin since 2015, and now co-directs the festival together with its founder Bartholomew Sammut. XPOSED has its origins in experimental queer short film, and today the festival is still all about bringing unexpected, thought-provoking art works to the screen.

If Merle Groneweg is not in the cinema or curating other film events, she's hanging out with friends or biking around. She also works for the German NGO PowerShift on environmental and human rights issues in the supply chain of metals. 

"I'm extremely honored to be part of this year's Side by Side! Ten days of queerness and film – how can it get any better? I am much looking forward to spending time with people yet unknown to me, to watching great films, and to then be moved by the stories told on and off the screen. Queer film festivals are community events, they can give us all a sense of belonging – and I hope that us standing "side by side" will send a message of hope and strength to others."




Author, film critic, curator, editor of Iskusstvo Kino magazine, editor in chief of kinoart.ru. Member of the Russian Guild of Film Critics and FIPRESCI.

“The history of art, including cinema, shows that fringe identities often encourage creatively different artistic systems. I hope that the films included in the Side by Side Film Festival competition will not only give voice to various minorities of contemporary society and their topical issues, but also make pertinent aesthetic choices.”