Next October the Russian city of St Petersburg will host Side by Side (“Bok o Bok”), its first international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender film festival.

The festival will run from 2nd to 5th October, 2008, with films and events at the historic Dom Kino House of Cinema, one of Europe’s premier venues for quality world cinema.

The event, which is expected to draw visitors from over 30 countries as well as major international sponsors, will give film enthusiasts of all persuasions the opportunity to enjoy the very best in contemporary lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema.

Side by Side will also showcase work from around the world including feature films, innovative independent films, documentaries, experimental and short films.

Manny de Guerre, marketing manager for the festival, said:

“We aim to provide a rich and diverse programme that will not only be of interest to the lesbian and gay community but also to the general cinema-going audience in Saint Petersburg.

“We are very proud to be working with Dom Kino House of Cinema and hope that Side by Side will become a permanent fixture in Russia’s cultural calendar.”

Although homosexuality is no longer a punishable criminal offence in Russia, homophobia at all levels of society is rife and discrimination against minority groups goes unchallenged on a daily basis.

Many people, fearing a backlash, choose not to come out and, as a consequence, must lead secret or double lives.

“This is a landmark event for lesbian and gay culture in Russia,” said festival organiser Irina Sergeeva, “We want to raise public awareness about lesbian and gay life and confront those very prejudices that permeate through our society.

“We hope that the Side by Side film festival will lead to a fruitful dialogue with the public at large, stimulating positive debate

and in turn engendering greater understanding and broader acceptance of those who live a lifestyle considered ‘different’ from the preconceived norms.”

The success of Side by Side will also serve as a litmus test, showing the extent to which Russia has moved towards a society where individuals are respected and human rights are valued and upheld.

Side by Side is currently accepting film and video submissions to be

presented during the film festival. The festival will consider works with major characters who are lesbians, gay men, bisexual, intersex and/or transgendered people.

To submit films for consideration, please visit

http://www.bok-o-bok.ru/en/films/ for submission instructions.