Matthew Shepard's Parents to Attend St. Petersburg LGBT Film Festival

Judy Shepard - H 2014
Associated Press

The gay-rights advocates will be at a screening of the documentary 'Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine'

Judy and Dennis Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard and well-known gay-rights advocates, are set to attend an LGBT film festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, this month.

The Shepards, whose son, then a 21-year-old student at University of Wyoming, was murdered in October 1998 in one of the highest-profile LGBT hate-crime cases, will attend the Nov. 24 screening of Michele Josue's documentary Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine at the Bok o bok (Side by Side) festival.

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Among the festival's other guests are Swedish director Ester Martin Bergsmark and writer Eli Leven, who will present their movie Nånting måste gå sönder (Something Must Break).

Over the last few years, the festival has repeatedly been surrounded by controversy. Last year, Side by Side was pronounced "a foreign agent" under a then newly introduced law and fined.

The screening of Abdellatif Kechiche's La Vie d'Adele (Blue Is the Warmest Color) at last year's edition of the festival was disrupted by anti-LGBT activists accusing the film of promoting teenage sex and homosexuality among minors. Some other screenings were canceled due to alleged bomb threats.

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Still, Gus van Sant showed up in St. Petersburg last November to screen his movie Milk at the fest.

St. Petersburg was Russia's first city to adopt a stricter law "against gay propaganda among minors," which was later adopted nationally.