Russian LGBT film festival website taken down by authorities
A Russian LGBT film festival website was taken down by the Russian government in what could be part of an orchestrated campaign by ultra-right-wing groups.
The Side by Side LGBT Film Festival (or “Bok o Bok”) is an annual event that is held at St. Petersburg, Russia, but is being held online this November 11–25 due to the pandemic.
While their online cinema theater remain up due to being hosted by a third party, the festival’s main website, bok-o-bok.com, was rendered inaccessible.
Russian LGBT film festival website targeted
Organizers of the festival said the takedown of their website by Roskomnadzor (RKN), or the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, could be part of a campaign of the ultra-right-wing groups.
In an Instagram post, organizers reported that while there have been some homophobic criticisms against their event, they didn’t think that authorities would block their site without checks.
“It turns out that they not only can, but will gladly do so. Despite the fact that our entire site is speckled in 18+ disclaimers,” they said..
Manny de Guerre, the founder of the festival, said: “We consider the decision to add our site to this blacklist illegal– receiving no advance warning from Roskomnadzor, nor the chance to defend our case in the courts.”
“We are currently consulting with our legal team and are taking further action,” de Guerre said.
Despite the takedown, the festival is moving ahead with their program and encouraging their audience to watch the films online. Likewise, their daily interactive discussions are being aired through social networks.
“We remain persistent,” de Guerre said, and they will continue their right and fight to protect the freedoms of LGBT persons.
Showcasing the best of LGBT films
First held in 2008, the Side by Side event has been targeted by hate groups before with last year’s physical event targeted by a homophobic attack.
What’s more, St. Petersburg authorities disrupted the festival’s opening in 2020 because the organizers had allegedly failed to comply with pandemic regulations.
For this year, the event opened with the screening of “Firebird,” Peeter Rebane’s film that was featured at the BFI Flare Festival in the UK earlier in 2021.
This virtual screening was also targeted by anti-LGBT comments during the Q&A session.
Reacting to the news, Rebane said, “This is one of the very few LGBTIQ+ festivals in Russia which fills an important gap in the Russian society by giving a voice to the community.”
“Instead of investigating the film festival, Russian authorities should be investigating the organizers of such cyber attacks,” he added.