Gus Van Sant to Appear at St. Petersburg's LGBT Film Festival

Gus Van Sant

Amid controversy over Russia's new anti-gay law, the openly gay director is expected to express support for the local LGBT community.

MOSCOW – Director Gus Van Sant will appear at the sixth edition of the LGBT film festival Bok o Bok (Side by Side), which kicks off in St. Petersburg on Thursday.

The director is coming to the city to meet with his local fans and to express support for the local LGBT community, the festival's organizers said.

The festival is to feature a special screening of Van Sant's 2008 movie Milk, after which the director, producer Bruce Cohen and writer Dustin Lance Black, are to take part in a Q&A session.

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The festival is being held just months after a controversial legislation "against gay propaganda among minors," which some see as an attempt to crack down on the LGBT community, was enacted in Russia. A similar law was adopted in St. Petersburg a year earlier, earning the city a reputation of a place where the gay community is facing trouble.

Earlier this year, the festival itself was in trouble with the authorities, but under another piece of legislation. Side by Side was branded a "foreign agent" and fined $15,500 (500,000 rubles), but a higher court later canceled the original verdict.

To avoid problems with authorities, organizers of the festival stressed that only people over 18 will be admitted to the screenings and other festival events.

Side by Side -- which will feature, among others, Diederik Ebbinge's Matterhorn, Xavier Dolan’s Tom a la Ferme (Tom at the Farm) and MaƂgorzata Szumowska's W imie... (In the Name Of) -- will run through Nov. 30.