By Dana Harris | Indiewire August 26, 2013 at 1:5PM
Indiewire receives many kind invitations to attend festivals and other film events, but this is the first time we've been moved to flat-out boycott a request for our coverage.
As you probably know -- and as Peter Knegt details here in his interview with Manny de Guerre, founder of Russia's LGBT film festival Step By Step -- Russia's policies toward the LGBT communities have become Draconian. So when I received a generous offer to be a guest at next month's DOORS International Film Market in St. Petersburg, there was no question that attending would be flat-out impossible.
I met one of the organizers, Eleonora Granata Jenkinson, during the American Film Market last year. She's terrific and tasked with the challenging assignment of bringing attention to the Russian film community. DOORS, which launched last year (Anne Thompson attended and covered the inaugural event), invites about 30 independent film executives to screen films and meet Russian filmmakers during the Message 2 Man Film Festival.
Jenkinson has nothing to do with Russia's LGBT policies. However, the program she promotes is funded by two state agencies, Roskino and the Russian Film Commission USA. So that made it simple: Indiewire isn't going, and will have nothing to do with any state-backed filmmaking until Russia's policies change.
Indiewire isn't the Olympics; as protests go, ours is unlikely to create much of a dent. However, it's our hope that DOORS will choose to cancel its 2013 program. For now, inviting the support of American independent film community is, at best, antithetical.
Tony Safford, executive VP at Fox Searchlight, also attended last year and was invited to return. His letter of rejection is printed below, as is the one I sent.
Your comments are invited.
Dear Catherine and Eleonora,
I deeply appreciate the hospitality that Roskino and the Russian Film Commission extended to me last year and had looked forward to participating in DOORS program this September. However, because of the draconian laws enacted by your government against the LGBT community, I cannot in good conscience accept your invitation. To me, participation in the program indicates tacit acceptance – and certainly not protest against – your government’s overt and harsh repression of human rights. To the contrary, I believe vocal protest is right now very necessary.
I am well aware that your government’s position on LGBT rights may not be your own. But you represent state agencies and hence the state itself. Were I to participate, I still do not know what latitude of debate is possible, let alone the personal and legal safety guaranteed to me and any of my LGBT brothers and sisters who might be in attendance.
Thus my own recommendation is to postpone DOORS until such time when the anti-LGBT laws are repealed and when open debate is possible. If you continue with DOORS this year, my concern is that you will be entering increasingly turbulent waters of cultural and political consequence - for you as well as for any of the American media companies that may participate – that is against the spirit of DOORS itself.
I am sorry these issues hit you with full force but this is the moment in which we find ourselves. I’ve attached a few notices which give further context to this.
Hi, Eleonora. Thanks very much for your invitation to attend DOORS, but I must decline. While I appreciate the generous opportunity, it is impossible for Indiewire to support this effort in light of Russia's current treatment of the LGBT populations. I recognize that you do not have a role in creating these policies, but we cannot accept anything from a state-backed organization as long as they remain in place.
I hope you will seriously consider canceling DOORS this year. There's real dissonance in Russia trying to draw the attention of the American independent film community, which prides itself on not only being inclusive but also celebrating gay rights. And as a journalist, I'm obliged to draw attention to this awkward contrast.
Please let me know your thoughts on this. Again, I do appreciate the intent, but Indiewire can have nothing to do with DOORS until there's change in Russia's policies.