Mezipatra film festival to highlight films about gay marriage, as well as plight of gays in Russia

The annual Mezipatra Film Festival gets underway this Thursday in Prague. The event, which is now in its 15th year, will present over seventy films with gay, lesbian and transgender topics before it moves on to Olomouc, Brno and Hradec Králové. I spoke to the programme director Lucia Kajánková and first asked her about this years’ theme:

“The theme, Till Death Do Us Part, refers to those who fight for marriage equality, which is a very hot topic, currently, for example in the United States. One of our main films, Ira Sachs’s Love Is Strange, is about a couple of two men, who after 39 years together can finally marry in the New York City, but it brings unexpected problems when it comes to their jobs.

“Another translation of the title is the fact that on one side, marriage equality and LGBT rights are being recognised, but on the other side of the world, for example in Russia, being gay or being lesbian or being trans can mean literally a threat to one’s life.”

Can you highlight a couple of movies? What films should we not miss this year?

“I would definitely recommend our opening film, The Way He Looks, the Brazilian nominee for the foreign language Academy Awards, which is a teenage love story about a blind boy who falls in love with his classmate.”

'The Way He Looks', photo: archive of Mezipatra Festival
“I would also like to highlight the exclusive premieres at the festival. One of the most critically-acclaimed French films, which has also won the audiences, films of last year, Me, Myself and Mum, by Guillaume Gallienne. It is a comedy about a very strange coming-out. And there is also the critically acclaimed Stranger by the Lake by Alain Guiraudie.”

I understand that among the guests this year will be Russian documentary filmmaker Askold Kurov and gay right activists Pavel Loparev. Can you tell me more about their film?

“The film was made via interviews with over 40 teenagers, because the law that was passed against the homosexual propaganda that is supposed to “shield” young people from any information about homosexuality pretty much made the LGBT youth in Russia non-existent.

'Children 404', photo: archive of Mezipatra Festival
“Hence the title Children 404, which connects to the online project that these people formed themselves as the non-existing page on the internet. The filmmakers gave them cameras to film their everyday life and difficulties and completely blatant homophobia that they encounter every day.”

Is it true that this year you are going to have more lesbian films? I read that the audiences complained that you were more gay-oriented.

“Yes, this is an issue we face every year, because statistically, there are fewer lesbian films made. But this year we have two fantastic new films in premieres in the main competition, first by the director Monica Treut with her film Of Golden Horses and also the film that was very successful film at Cannes this year, the South Korean drama A Girl at My Door.

“We are also focusing on lesbian classics and we are showing Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, a film that was not allowed at festival over the past years and we have it, so I think this is fantastic. “

What is the trend in gay and lesbian films these days?

'Heavenly Creatures', photo: archive of Mezipatra Festival
“The trend is, and I am very happy about it, that gay and lesbian and transgender films are no more about specific stories and they do not focus strictly on the fact that someone is gay or lesbian.

“This has been transgressed in the past years, which is why I think LGBT films are so successful at mainstream A- festivals. We have winners from Berlinale, from Cannes and from festivals that are not focused just on the LGBT scene.”