A Russian language billboard erected at St Kilda Junction in Melbourne is attempting to send a message of solidarity to an audience half a world away.
The Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) has created the billboard - which will be in place for two weeks - to draw attention to Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" laws. Introduced in 2013, the laws make it illegal to show positive portrayals of gay people or same-sex relationships (referred to as "non-traditional sexual relationships") under the guise of protecting children.
Translated to English, the 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)."
MQFF executive director Dillan Golightly said the festival decided to invite Russia’s queer community to their opening night by live-streaming the event to Russia on video streaming service Periscope. But when it came to spreading the word, they hit a brick wall.
“When we contacted people in Russia about putting posters up, we discovered that if they did, they’d be breaking the law,” Golightly said.
Festival organisers then became even more determined to get the word out and decided to go with a billboard in a high vantage point at the busy St Kilda Junction, in the hope the social media would get the message to Russia.
“For 26 years, the Melbourne Queer Film Festival has loudly celebrated being proudly different, but there are plenty of queer communities who don’t enjoy this privilege, including Russia’s. We wanted to send a message of solidarity and hope,” Golightly said.
"For us, this is a reminder not to take what we have for granted in Australia, despite still having a way to go. It also reminds us just how important events like the Melbourne Queer Film Festival are.
“The more we come up against bigotry and negativity, the more we need to demonstrate our solidarity and commitment, and the more vital it is that we continue bringing proudly different stories to the big screen.”
MQFF will this year screen the 2016 Academy Award-nominated Russian short animation We Can’t Live Without Cosmos and Peter Greenaway’s latest film Eisenstein in Guanajuato about Russia’s greatest filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein.