Gus Van Sant, Dustin Lance Black Attend LGBT Film Festival in Russia, Despite Bomb Threats

By Jase Peeples

Originally published on Advocate.com November 26 2013 6:46 PM ET

Despite the nationwide antigay law passed in Russia this year to ban the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” the Side by Side LGBT international film festival kicked off in St. Petersburg last Thursday and will continue through Saturday, reports GLAAD.

Though the opening night of the festival, which features LGBT films from around the world, was delayed due to a bomb threat at the theater where the first film would be screened, the celebration of LGBT cinema has gone on.

Even aggressive antigay protesters who have gathered outside the theaters screening the festival’s films could not keep LGBT supporters away. Additionally, the team behind Milk — director Gus Van Sant, producer Bruce Cohen, and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black — will not only attend the festival but still plan to also hold a discussion Saturday after a screening of their award-winning film based on the life of LGBT trailblazer Harvey Milk.

Cohen said he is looking forward to the opportunity to stand in solidarity with LGBT Russians at the festival. “For over a century, our countries have both valued cinema as a means of expanding cultural understanding,” he told GLAAD. “Time and again we've broken down the barriers between us by sharing our cinematic achievements. Our hope in screening the 2009 Academy Award-winning film Milk — about the late civil rights leader Harvey Milk — is to encourage respectful conversations that might create deeper understanding. Cinema has that power.”

“When asked, the Russian LGBT advocates stated that they need our solidarity. They needed us to be present, be out and be outspoken at LGBT events like the Side by Side Film Festival,” GLAAD national spokesman Wilson Cruz said in a statement on GLAAD.org. “Bruce and Lance and Gus are using their film as well as their very presence to show solidarity, spark discussion, and call for a Russia that embraces all its citizens.”

For more information of the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, visit the fest’s website.