From Melbourne with love
Originally published on Broadsheet Melbourne (22 March 2016)
It might look out over Melbourne’s busy St Kilda junction, but this colourful new billboard is hoping to reach people half a world away.
The Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) has put up the advertisement – in Russian – to reach out to Russia’s LGBTI community. This year, a special event called “To Russia With Love” will livestream the festival online to the Russian Federation via Periscope.
“We wanted to send a message of hope and solidarity,” says MQFF executive director Dillan Golightly.
But, in a country where anti-gay “propaganda” laws criminalise any positive depiction of gay identities or issues in a public space, advertising was next to impossible.
“When we contacted people in Russia about putting posters up, we discovered that, if they did, they’d be breaking the law,” Golightly says.
Enter the Melbourne billboard. While certainly not the easiest way to reach an audience on the opposite side of the world, Golightly and her team are now hoping the internet “will do its job” and word will get out.
“For 26 years, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival has loudly celebrated being proudly different,” says Golightly. “But there are plenty of queer communities who don’t enjoy this privilege, including Russia’s. For us, this is a reminder not to take what we have for granted in Australia, despite still having a way to go.”
And, for Golightly, it is also a reminder of the importance of the MQFF itself. The March event is now the longest running queer film festival in Australia and one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
“The more we come up against bigotry and negativity, the more we need to demonstrate our solidarity and commitment,” says Golightly. “And the more vital it is that we continue bringing proudly different stories to the big screen.”
Translated into English, the MQFF billboard reads: “To Russia with Love, please join our live-stream of the opening night of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. (We wanted to put this up in Russia but it’s illegal.) Follow @mqff on Periscope at 12pm, March 31 (MOSCOW TIME).”