In the same week that the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival announced its cracking programme for this years fest, we received reports of a worrying protest inside a cinema in Bucharest. Highlighting the struggle still faced by many in screening films which discuss LGBT issues, and the very real danger of harassment to audiences attending them, Verena Von Stackelberg reports on Wednesday’s incident, presented here in solidarity with independent cinema exhibitors in Romania and beyond.
You Kids are All Right
At the LGBT History Month on 20th February 2013 in Bucharest, a group of conservative homophobic protesters boycotted a screening of The Kids Are Alright with the aid of the deputy director of the Peasants Museum, where the event took place.
LGBT History Month is a month-long, annual observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history taking place in nine European cities. The film in question stars Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo, detailing the ups and downs of a long-term lesbian couple and their teenage children. It is by all means a relatively conventional Hollywood family-drama with the apt contemporary exception that both parents are mothers.
What might have sparked the new homophobic discourse happened not long before this, on 7th February, at a bi-lingual high school with special interest in human rights: the school organised several events to help celebrate the LGBT History Month and was ridiculed by the media, in turn causing public, negative outrage. A billboard (sponsored by The Romanian Family Alliance and Pro Vita) with the rainbow flag was put up near Olari Street (the schools street) alerting people to ‘what is going on at that school. Later on, the districts mayor sanctioned the advertising companies that allowed the offensive billboards to be produced.
LGBT organiser Alexandra Carastoian provided an eyewitness report of the homophobic attack at the cinema:
It all went smoothly with the LGBT History Month in Romania until Wednesday 20th, when we gathered at the Romanian Peasants Museum in the Cinema section called The New Romanian Directors Cinema (Noul cinematograf al regizorului Roman) for the screening. I got there 30 minutes earlier to make sure that there would not be any technical issues. Meanwhile, in the hallway we spotted a few people who didn’t seem to have good intentions. First we thought they had something that looked like baseball clubs, but after a closer look they were Romanian flags. It was almost clear to us what their intentions were. In a couple of moments a crowd of about 40 right-wing extremists, nationalists, neo-Nazis and church-fans got inside the cinema space and practically blocked the screening. After a few scenes of the movie, they stood in front of the projector singing the national anthem and waving their flags so it had to be stopped. Although authorities have knowledge of our Festival and were at the previous events to ensure safety, they didn’t intervene.
Later that evening a friend told me she heard the policemen talking there are three categories I cant stand: drunks, drug-addicts and homosexuals, I’m not going in there. One of the protesters was so drunk he could barely stand on his own two feet. Filmmaker and audience member Mona Nicoara said, ‘While the director of the Museum publicly stood up for the LGBT History Month, despite protests from nationalist and religious groups, the deputy director was reportedly seen appeasing the extremists today and sitting down for a beer with them.’ A Romanian extremist blog contained the words Let’s go to the Peasant’s Museum! next to the screening information and shots of street banners saying Come to the Romanian Peasant’s Musem today at 6pm! Would you want to see your son a homosexual? Could you imagine your daughter a lesbian? On the Olari St and at the Peasant’s Museum they’re doing stuff… “
I personally heard the deputy director before the screening telling the projectionist: Just start the darn thing already, the sooner we start it, the sooner we end all of this and then shouted swear words based on homophobia closer to a group of people that later were inside. The projectionist had instructions from the museums deputy director that the movie should start at 18:30 when actually it should have started at 18:00. We spent about two hours inside the cinema playing word ping-pong with the protesters. They were holding crosses and religious icons, also three of them took photos of themselves in front of the screen while holding up a flag showing Nazi signs. At the end, the policemen noted ID information of all of the people in the cinema, not letting them go out of the building without doing that.
What occurred and is occurring during or outside of gay and lesbian events all over the world needs to be monitored closely, sadly even now, when we can just begin writing the futuristic-sounding Year 2013. To all organizers of the LGBT History Month: A massive thank-you for your courage on behalf of those who value human rights. You Kids Are All Right.
Verena von Stackelberg
Further details (in Romanian): http://www.hotnews.ro/stiri-esential-14270775-video-scandal-mtr-incidente-proiectie-film.htm