A Russian film depicting gay love was rejected by festival organizers out of fears they would break the ‘propaganda laws’.
‘Winter Journey’ is a story of a gay musician falling in love with a petty street criminal, and was pitched and subsequently rejected from Kinotavr, one of Russia’s main film festivals.
Director of the film Sergei Taramayev believes the rejection stems from controversial legislation banning the promotion of ‘gay propaganda’ to minors, despite the film being given an age rating of 18.
This means minors would not be able to see the film, raising concerns whether it is a form of censorship and confirms fears there is a major crackdown on the LGBT community in Russia.
‘For the organizers of the festival it was uncomfortable, because there is such a law, so they thought it was better not to get involved,’ Taramayev told AFP.
‘At least people who were in the jury told us that this was the reason why we were not accepted for Kinotavr.’
Despite the film already having won prizes at two, albeit smaller, Russian film festivals this year, Vyborg in northwestern Russia and the Moscow Premiere, co-writer Lyubov Lvova believes other festivals will no longer show the film out of fear of losing funding.
‘At many festivals – Russian ones – this scared the organizers a lot. They were afraid of this law, that it could stop them getting financing for their festivals.’
Creators of the film did not even bother submitting it to the main festival in Russia, the Moscow International Film Festival. Taramayev says this to be due to the organizer, Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov, having views that support the government’s anti-gay laws.
‘He supports the government’s line and is a very political director and we realized that they would not take us.’
The filmmakers were surprised the culture ministry permitted the films release in the first place.
‘We still can’t quite believe in this miracle,’ said co-writer Lvova.
Despite the films themes, the creators would rather the film not be referred to as a ‘gay film’. According to Taramayev the character is gay because it ‘underlines his loneliness and conflict with the world.
‘That is why we made him gay, to make him more in conflict with society.’