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Pedro Almodóvar

Pedro Almodóvar is the most successful and internationally known Spanish filmmaker of his generation. His films, marked by complex narratives, employ the codes of melodrama and use elements of pop culture, popular songs, irreverent humor, strong colors, glossy décor and LGBT themes. Desire, passion, family and identity are among Almodóvars most prevalent themes. His films enjoy a worldwide following and he has become a major figure on the stage of world cinema. Pedro Almodóvar is an official friend and supporter of Side by Side LGBT International Film.

Alexander Sokurov

Russian film director Alexander Sokurov expressed his opinion towards Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in 2008. On its announcement the film festival received a great deal of negative reaction in the media and from various figures within the Russian film industry.

Alexander Sokurov: "I think that nobody has the right to discriminate against another person according to a particular kind of characteristic. Discrimination is a crime against humanity. The fight against discrimination is the basic principle of European civilization. Homosexuality is not an illness, from my point of view, its just a different organization of the body and soul. This difference is a result of the development of life and it is as unique and divine as any other forms of existence. This is what people finally have to accept finally."

Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant is an American film director, screenwriter, photographer, musician, and author. He was nominated for an Academy Award for Achievement in Directing for his 1997 film Good Will Hunting and his 2008 film Milk, and won the Palme d'Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival for his film Elephant.

His early career was devoted to directing television commercials in the Pacific Northwest. In his films, he has dealt with themes concerning homosexuality and other marginalized subcultures.

Gus van Sant: "To the St. Petersburg LGBT festival, I congratulate you on your success, and honor all the participants and gay comrades throughout St. Petersburg and Russia."

Svetlana Surganova

Musician Svetlana Surganova was a jury member for the first Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in 2008.

Svetlana Surganova: "I hope the festival will be able to break the stereotypes in society. In this sense, our country is aggressively archaic and backward, full of phobias and prejudices. It will take many years and a lot of strength to develop a fully-fledged LGBT community. Strength and Patience!

Stephen Fry

British actor and writer Stephen Fry lent his support, giving a personal address to the Saint Petersburg audience for the Side by Side Special Event HIV & Me in April, 20101.

Ken Loach

Ken loach is one of Britain's leading film and television directors. He is known for his naturalistic, social realist directing style and for his socialist beliefs, which are evident in his film treatment of social issues such as homelessness (Cathy Come Home) and labour rights (Riff-Raff).

Ken Loach: "This is to wish you good luck for the festival. You are making a brave stand on an important principle: no discrimination on the basis of gender or sexuality. Prejudice comes from ignorance. You are helping dispel that. With warmest good wishes."

Aki Kaurismäki

Aki Kaurismäki is a Finnish script writer and film director. He started his career in 1983 by filming a modern version of Dostoyevskys Crime and Punishment in Helsinki. Kaurismäki has been awarded numerous times not only for his artistic achievements but also for his courage to take a stand for human and animal rights. His most successful movie has been The man Without a Past (2002) which won the Grand Prix and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes Film Festival. His latest film, Le Havre, won the Audience Award at Kinoforum film festival in St. Petersburg in June 2011. Kaurismäki is known for the humanism of his movies.

Aki Kaurismäki: "The ghost of freedom is hovering above Russia. We have nothing left to lose other than our prejudices! The most important thing is the electrification of society. Thus forward! Long live Side by Side Film Festival!"

Ian McKellen

Sir Ian Murray McKellen, CH, CBE is an English actor. He has received a Tony Award and two Academy Award nominations. His work has spanned genres from Shakespearean and modern theatre to popular fantasy and science fiction. He is known to many for roles such as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy and as Magneto in the X-Men films. In 1988, McKellen came out and announced he was gay. He became a founding member of Stonewall, one of the United Kingdom's most influential LGBT rights groups, of which he remains a prominent spokesman. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1979, and knighted in the 1991 New Year Honours for his outstanding work and contributions to theatre. In the 2008 New Year Honours he was made a Companion of Honour (CH) for services to drama and to equality.

Ian Mckellen: "I am full of admiration for your vital stand against the old forces of reaction and prejudice. Its only by open opposition that the world changes for the better."

Igor Kon

Igor Kon, Professor, Sociologist and Author of "Faces and Masks of same Sex Love."

Igor Kon: "From all my heart I welcome Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in Saint-Petersburg! This is an important cultural and social event. It shows us that people with unconventional gender identity or sexual orientation are not exotic sexual minorities who we should either feel sympathy for or on the other hand judge, but are an organic part of our society and world culture. Artistic, including cinematographic, reflection and perception of their problems gives us a better understanding of not only them but also of ourselves. I hope the festival will present good films that will be of interest to not only LGBT moviegoers but general public as well."

Thomas Hammarberg

Side by Side LGBT Film Festival received a letter of support for the October film festival in 2010 from Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh, OBE is an English writer and director of film and theatre. He studied theatre at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and did his early acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company[citation needed]. He began as a theatre director and playwright in the 1960s. In the 1970s he made the transition to television plays, many of which were characterized by a gritty "kitchen sink realism" style. Some of his well-known films include Life is Sweet (1990), the comedy-drama Career Girls (1997), the Gilbert and Sullivan biography Topsy Turvy (1999), and the bleak working-class drama All or Nothing (2002). His most notable works are arguably Naked (1993) for which he won the Best Director Award at Cannes,[1] the BAFTA-winning (and Oscar-nominated) Palme d'Or winner Secrets & Lies (1996) and Golden Lion winner Vera Drake (2004)..

Mike Leigh: "All good luck to the Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival! This will be a great and important event."

Sarah Waters

Award winning and acclaimed British novelist Sarah Waters lends support to the film festival and underlines the power culture has to change society.

Sarah Waters: "I'm very excited to hear that an LGBT film festival is to take place in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Film festivals like this are a wonderful forum for the celebration of queer art, and for the strengthening and celebration of the LGBT community. They are also a great way of opening up debate around issues of sex and sexuality - something which is particularly necessary in a society like that of Russia, where LGBT people still face an enormous amount of hostility. Russian society is clearly in a state of change. The labeling of gay people as sinners and perverts, and of homosexuality as an illness, is a form of out-dated thinking which can have no place in a tolerant, diverse, intellectually curious culture. LGBT film festivals take place all over the world. The annual London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival began, like Side by Side, on quite a small scale, and in the face of much homophobic opposition; it is now a vital and well-respected part of London's cultural landscape. I hope Russia's LGBT community will enjoy Side by Side as a celebration of its right to live and love and make art in its own way. I also hope that straight audiences will seek out the films in the festival, in a spirit of interest and support."

Marc Almond

Marc Almond is an internationally acclaimed and successful artist. He has sold over 30 million records worldwide and is an icon and influence to a generation of musicians.

Marc Almond: "To hold a Lesbian and Gay film festival in St Petersburg is long over due, and is a great thing for Russia. It acknowledges the huge creative contributions that Gays and Lesbians give to society. Not just in film, but in all arts, music, technology and beyond. A diverse tolerant society, is a rich one."

Bruce LaBruce

Bruce LaBruce is one of the most controversial and influential members of the "queercore" or "homocore" movement of extreme or guerrilla-type homosexual artistic expression. A writer, editor, actor, and photographer, LaBruce is most widely known as a director whose films consistently challenge and invert the way queer culture is depicted and celebrated. Born Justin Stewart in Southampton, Ontario, Canada in 1964, LaBruce experienced an "idyllic" and "isolated" childhood. His career in "queercore" first began in his early twenties, when he became editor and producer of the homo punk fanzine J.D. (1985-1991)

Bruce LaBruce: "Having just returned from Moscow, I understand how necessary the idea of gay activism and visibility is in Russia. The culture of homophobia is pervasive in the former Soviet Union, and there doesn't seem to be much support for people with alternate or unorthodox sexual identities and practices. I applaud the efforts of the Side by Side LGBT Festival of St. Petersburg to give voice to the army of homosexual lovers and perverts In Russia who are being oppressed by the government and right wing hoodlums. The battle against the overwhelming homophobia of the hetero-normative majority will be fought and won by the efforts of a vocal minority of militant homosexuals and transgendered insurgents! Power to the perverts!"