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Russia’s documentary film festival forced by anti-LGBT activists to cancel film

Artdocfest, Russia’s largest documentary film festival, has been targeted by anti-LGBT activists. They had programmed Silent Voice, a documentary about a young Chechen MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter who had to escape from Chechnya for Brussels when his brother discovered he was gay and threatened to kill him. The film was due to be screened on 5 and 6 April in Moscow.

The organisers of the festival told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper that a man who identified himself only as ‘Suliman’ threatened them with ‘serious consequences’ if they did not pull the film from the festival’s line up. According to Screen International, he also told them that the film ‘violates the rights of Chechens’ as there are ‘no gays’ in Chechnya.

Screen International report that the festival’s director, Ekho Moskvy, was informed that all the tickets to both screenings had been bought on one credit card. He did not know if this was to prevent anyone attending, or if anti-LGBT protestors would fill the venue.

The festival has announced that they hope the jury will be able to see the film at the festival’s iteration in Riga.

A statement from the director of Silent Voice, Reka Valerik, has been posted on the festival’s website. It includes the statement: “Our film is not ‘political’. This is an ode to love: the love that a mother feels for her son, the love that this son feels for his homeland, which he suddenly had to leave against his will. This, in its own way, is an ode to love for Chechnya. Because even homosexuals have the right to love their country.”

The festival was supposed to run in St Petersburg as well as Moscow but the relevant cinema was closed by the authorities – it was not clear if this was in relation to alleged breaches of Covid regulations or due to a complaint by a self-styled ‘anti-gay’ activist that the festival was ‘promoting LGBT values amongst minors’.

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