Russian film braves law to tell gay love story

Russian film braves law to tell gay love story
Russian same-sex couples share a kiss as they arrive at a registry office to apply for marriage licences in St. Petersburg June 28, 2013. Five gay couples applied for the marriage licences, but their applications were not accepted by the authorities.

MOSCOW - A taboo-breaking Russian film tackling the topic of gay love may have earned critical plaudits but its makers fear few will ever see the movie given the crackdown on so-called "homosexual propaganda".

A controversial new law signed in June by President Vladimir Putin makes it legal to ban events that could be seen as promoting homosexuality to minors.

Western stars including British actor Stephen Fry and US pop star Lady Gaga have publicly criticised the law, which so far has been largely used as a threat rather than enforced.

So when the makers of "Winter Journey", a passionate story of a gay classical singer falling in love with a street-wise petty criminal, pitched it to one of Russia's main summer film festivals, Kinotavr, they were surprised it was refused.

"For the organisers of the festival it was uncomfortable, because there is such a law, so they thought it was better not to get involved," director Sergei 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."

The film's co-writer Lyubov Lvova said she believed festivals feared they could lose funding if they showed the film.

"At many festivals - Russian ones - this scared the organisers a lot. They were afraid of this law, that it could stop them getting financing for their festivals."

Taramayev said they did not even submit the film to Russia's main film forum, Moscow International Film Festival - opened by Brad Pitt this summer - because of the views of its organiser, Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov.

"He supports the government's line and is a very political director and we realised that they would not take us."

Nevertheless, Kommersant daily's film critic Lidya Maslova argued that the film would "look great at any European festival."

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