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Threats from Orthodox Religious Extremists Fail to Stop Opening of Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in Moscow.

Saint Petersburg based Side by Side LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Film Festival opened successfully yesterday evening on 26th April, 2012 despite threats of violence from an orthodox religious extremist group the Orthodox Brotherhood Union. Following threats in the lead up to the opening, Side by Side took additional security measures informing not only the Moscow police but the Ombudsman for Human Rights in Moscow and Russia and the prosecutor's office.

In the region of 10 orthodox extremists wearing T-shirts with slogans: Orthodoxy or death, gathered outside Cinema Club Fitiil, the venue for the opening of the festival, shouting slogans: Perverts get out of Russia. Police were present at the scene and were in full control of the situation, providing necessary security.

The protestors failed to dampen proceedings and the festival opened with a full house and a positive atmosphere. After the screening of the film Patrik 1.5  (Sweden, 2008) director Ella Lemhagen answered questions from the audience. Commenting on the evenings events festival founder Manny de Guerre: It was great that so many people came to the opening despite the potential threat. It is clear that there is a very strong need for people to want to talk about LGBT issues and rights, the urgency is even more so in this climate of increasing homophobia in Russia where laws are being passed around the country banning the so-called propaganda of homosexuality.

Over the course of the next three days the general public will have the chance to get acquainted with alternative opinion to that being propagated by conservative voices within government, the orthodox church, far right and ultra national groups. Discussions will focus on the censorship of LGBT issues in the Russian press, changing attitudes towards the LGBT community with the experience of Denmark, the Czech Republic and Russia and bringing up children in same sex families. Among the experts are Masha Gessen - Journalist, Writer, LGBT Activist (Russia), Yuri Dzhibladze - Member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights (Russia) and Martin Putna - Human Rights Activist (Czech Republic). 

Photographer Yulia Malyigina

Organizers Manny de Guerre and Gulya Sultanova

Organizer Tatiyana Shmankevich, translator Maria Danova and representative from the British Embassy, James Ford

Volunteers and guests

Activists oustside the venue

Orthodox religious extremists with the police

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