Ukraine to host its first-ever LGBTQ+ film festival amid ongoing Russian invasion

The first LGBTQ+ film festival in Ukraine aims to showcase the diversity of the queer community and its resilience in times of war.

This article is about the first LGBTQ+ film festival in Ukraine. In the photo, a cinema with people sitting and looking at a white screen.
Image: Via Unsplash - Jake Hills

This summer, Ukraine will host its first-ever LGBTQ+ film festival to celebrate the queer community and reflect the population’s struggles amid the ongoing Russian invasion.

The festival was announced at the International Film Festival Rotterdam taking place from January 25 to February 5. The project was named Sunny Bunny, after Kyiv-based Molodist Film Fest’s section established in 2001.

According to programmer Bohdan Zhuk, the goal of this LGBTQ+ film festival is to showcase the diversity of the queer community in Ukraine and its resilience in the ongoing wartime struggle. It will take place in June, right in time for Pride season.

Sunny Bunny aims to go beyond the “queer tragedy” narrative and provide new types of representation in its characters. Speaking to Variety, Zhuk said, “I feel so much joy when I watch films that don’t follow this conventional narrative of what a queer character should be”.

“It’s an ongoing conversation among queer film festivals, because we are tired of all these coming-out films, of stories revolving around the acceptance of the queer character by somebody else. We want other things: we want fun. We don’t want tragedy. We are done with that.”

Zhuk also spoke about the ongoing war in Ukraine and the queer fighters who are opposing the Russian invasion of their country. “The war is unpredictable, so you just have to adapt and be flexible.”

Talking about another festival they did in December, the programmer explained that “there were blackouts, so we needed generators. We also needed to plan where people would hide in case of raids, plan out shelters in cinemas or nearby metro stations”.

Zhuk added, “It’s essential to talk about queer people in the army. They are out there, fighting. Lately, especially since the start of the invasion, many military volunteers and others [involved in the fight] have been publicly coming out. As queer, gay, bisexual, trans.”

The Ukrainian LGBTQ+ citizens fighting in the war were recently celebrated at another event that took place in Washington DC, where Ukraine’s Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova was also present. It marked the first appearance by a Ukrainian ambassador at an openly LGBTQ+ event.

Organised by QUA (LGBTQ Ukrainians in America), the Ukrainian Union of LGBT military and Kyiv Pride, the event was a photo exhibit by Crimean Tartar artist Alim Yakubov, who took pictures of LGBTQ+ Ukrainian military members.

“Thank you for everything you do in Kyiv and thank you for everything that you do in order to fight the discrimination that still is somewhere in Ukraine,” said the ambassador during her speech. “Not everything is perfect yet, but you know, I think we are moving in the right direction. And we together will not only fight the external enemy but also will see equality.”

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