The 10th Side by Side International LGBT Film Festival has officially started in St Petersburg, promising many surprises, including the arrival of a special guest—Eurovision Song Contest winner and public figure Conchita Wurst
The opening ceremony of the festival was held at Kinoloft Moskva in St Petersburg and managed to gather an unexpectedly larger number of guests. Each year, the number of attendees has increased, but the truly remarkable feature this year was the degree of support that the festival received from the public and form event partners. In particular, Hans Wesseling, the General Consul of the Netherlands, expressed his sincere admiration towards the organisers of the festival and affirmed his support for the event on behalf of the general consuls of Sweden, Norway, the USA, and the UK, who were also present at the ceremony.
The main narrative of this year’s festival is the history of the LGBTIQ-Community and its struggles and battles, both lost and won. Along with feature films, it will showcase gripping documentaries that promise deep emotional journeys for viewers. For instance, the famous documentary filmmaker and nonfiction author Andrea Weiss also attended the ceremony to present her film about the important yet overlooked topic of the hidden lives of lesbians and gays under the rule of Francisco Franco in Spain. It’s fair to say that the Festival had a bright start: it opened with the award-winning British drama God’s Own Country, which received a standing ovation and a positive response from the jury.
Needless to say, the main news of the evening was the announcement of a surprise guest, whose name was carefully kept in secret before the start of the festival. When the cinema screen started rolling the video message from Conchita Wurst, the audience gasped in shock and excitement. In her video, Conchita congratulated the Festival on its 10th birthday and expressed how eagerly she has been anticipating for her trip to St Petersburg. This will be the singer’s first visit to Russia.
Based on the reaction of the audience, the organisers seem to have exceeded expectations this year. As Manny de Guerre, the main organiser of Side by Side, confessed to Prospekt, “every year we try to invite a high-profile foreign guest to express their support for the Festival and its cause, and this year is no exception. We have sent several invitations to various celebrities, including Elton John and Patti Smith, but, unfortunately, they were all busy. Conchita was on the list as well and she gladly accepted our invitation to come here, meet with the Russian LGBTIQ-Community and show her love and support.” Conchita Wurst will appear at the screening of the film Tomcat on the 25th November at the Kinoloft Moskva, followed by a Q&A session. Additionally, Conchita will attend the closing party of the festival to perform some of her songs.