Matthew Shepard Doc Collects Audience Award at Russian LGBT Fest

Judy Shepard - H 2014
Associated Press

This year, St Petersburg-based festival Side by Side avoided controversies

The U.S. documentary Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine has collected the audience award at the festival Bok o bok (Side by Side), Russia's main LGBT film event.

The film was presented by Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of the documentary's subject Matthew Shepard, and director Michele Josue. In addition to St. Petersburg, where the festival was held, Josue and the Shepards, well-known U.S. LGBT rights advocates, screened the film in Moscow.

The Swedish movie Nånting måste gå sönder (Something Must Break), presented by director Ester Martin Bergsmark and writer Eli Levén, was awarded as the festival's best feature.

Julia, by German director Johanna Jackie Baier, picked up the best documentary award.

This year's edition of Side by Side avoided the kinds of controversies and disruptions that marred its previous edition.

Last year, anti-LGBT activists, headed by conservative local parliament member Vitaly Milonov, tried to disrupt a festival screening of Abdellatif Kechiche's La Vie d'Adele (Blue Is the Warmest Color), claiming that underage viewers were admitted to the screening.

Under the Russian law "against gay propaganda among minors," viewers under 18 years old should not be exposed to any homosexual content. The festival's organizers insisted they had violated no laws.

This year, the organizers said they had made sure there would be no pretext for attacks from antigay activists.