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Meet Liza Simbirskaya from Russia

How to normalize being gay in Russia?
Liza Simbirskaya

“I am trying to live by the samurai wisdom, or maybe it's just a proverb, “do what you must and come what may,” says Russian screenwriter Liza Simbirskaya about her attitude towards life. In the past few years, the up-and-coming screenwriter has made her name in the non-mainstream art and cinema circles of Moscow with her ambitious, socially oriented takes on issues often ignored by the predominantly conservative society of Russia. Life with HIV, being homosexual, and what it’s like to be an adolescent in today’s Russia have all been explored in her short miniseries streamed online.

Liza Simbirskaya quote

She is the author of two popular, low-budget web-series "This is me", released in 2017, about young people in contemporary Russia and the social issues they face and the ongoing web-series "I am starting to search", about young LGBTQ people living in Moscow. Recently, she published a 9-episode miniseries about the coming-of-age story of a young gay man in Moscow and his HIV-positive friend titled “Here I come.”

Her genuine screenwriting style gives potential answers to the troubling questions of how someone can talk about what it’s like to be gay in an intolerant society where traditional values reign supreme in mass media. And more importantly – how they can do it in a way that does not employ the “flamboyant gay life” stereotypes or fall into the trap of typical Eastern European cinema that focus mostly on life’s miseries.

Liza Simbirskaya quote

Her genuine screenwriting style gives potential answers to the troubling questions of how someone can talk about what it’s like to be gay in an intolerant society where traditional values reign supreme in mass media. And more importantly – how they can do it in a way that does not employ the “flamboyant gay life” stereotypes or fall into the trap of typical Eastern European cinema that focus mostly on life’s miseries.

“Breaking the stereotypes was one of the main purposes of this project. First of all, because I have a lot of queer friends who are all very different from each another, but all of them would like to watch something about themselves. I also think it's my professional method: show people in their everyday life and find interest in their very simple dialogs and situations. I think it helps viewers and myself accept life like it is,” says Simbirskaya.

Liza Simbirskaya quote

Changing attitudes and opening a window for conversation to other socially engaged artists is one of the missions of Liza Simbirskaya and an engine behind “Here I come.” “I did it to show young directors, producers, and screenwriters that they don’t have to be afraid to talk about queer people, people of different nations, and young people; to show them a viewer's reaction,” she shares.

As to the question why she is fighting such an uphill battle, Simbirskaya says that she just can’t imagine not doing it. “I grew up in a family where it was important to have your own opinion, your voice, to take responsibility, and to be aware… Freedom and liberty are something I was born with. I would like to be a conformist and less of a fighter for justice, because it's safer and easier, but I can't,” she says. 

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