Merlinka, Serbia's first gay film festival, was scheduled to take place
September 11-13 in Belgrade, but the festival has been canceled due to
threats of antigay violence, according to filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, whose gay zombie reverie Otto: or, Up With Dead People was to screen there.
LaBruce says, "I am disheartened but I cannot say surprised that Merlinka, the first ever gay art/film festival to be held in Belgrade... has been postponed owing to the threat of homophobic violence, presumably from extreme right-wing elements/neo-Nazi skinheads."
The film festival was named for the late transgender actress Vjeran Miladinovic, nicknamed "Merlinka," who starred inaward-winning Serbian filmmaker Zelimir Zilnik's Marble Ass. The festival had planned to screen Kennedy Is Getting Married (Serbia), Marble Ass, Ghosted (Germany), Otto: Or, Up With Dead People (Canada), An Englishman in New York,Beyond the Pink Curtain (United Kingdom), Queer Sarajevo (Bosnia), The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela (France, Iceland), Love Sick (Romania), and Love Songs (France).
LaBruce details another conflict with an Eastern European film festival. "Several years ago I showed my movie The Raspberry Reich at the second ever gay film festival in Zagreb, Croatia, where I was required to have a police escort to each of my screenings to protect me from potential attacks from the same elements. The police weren't much better: They raided the lone gay bar in the city, where my party was held, hours before my arrival and shook everyone down for drugs."
"Homophobic violence is commonplace in the former Soviet Union, where homosexuals still struggle for the basic freedoms that we in the West take for granted," LaBruce says about Serbia, which split from the Soviet Union in 1948. "They need our support and encouragement. Perhaps screenings of Skin Flick, the neo-Nazi porn film I made a decade ago, are in order for these festivals. The film deals with the well-known fact that many of these vocally homophobic neo-Nazis, particularly their leaders, are themselves secretly homosexual! These fascists need to wake up and smell the pansies!"
No statement has been made about rescheduling the festival for a later date.