Lithuanian Filmmaker Pushes For LGBT Equality
12 October, 2016

What You Need To Know: 

✅  Gay Lithuanian filmmaker Romas Zabarauskas tackles the topic of widespread homophobia in the Baltic state, in a new film 'You Can't Escape Lithuania'.
✅  Despite Lithuania's rapid progress of European integration since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's, some politicians today continue to push an anti-LGBTQ rights agenda.  
✅  Vilnius successfully hosted the Baltic Pride Parade earlier this year. Support for civil partnerships and marriage equality remains low, a recent report found
✅  Zabarauskas: "In Russia, there is no freedom of speech, and it's dangerous --life-threatening-- to fight for your human rights. That's exactly where we are different"

Lithuanian ruling elites are trying to suppress LGBT people and continuously have the worst record on civil rights equality in the European Union, Romas Zabarauskas, a Lithuanian filmmaker tells Hromadske.

His recent movie, 'You Can't Escape Lithuania' was nominated for the best narrative feature at the Bushwick Film Festival in New York City, a rare occasion for a Baltic movie. It is a fictionalized version of the author's own story as an openly gay artist living in Lithuania.

Despite being a loud voice against Russian expanding military aggression, the country is the only member of the European Union that tries to adopt so-called 'anti-gay propaganda' legislation, a replica from a well-known Russian law. By doing so, Lithuania loses a chance to really distance itself from the oppressive Russian regime, Zabarauskas warns.

"This is such strange thinking! When we talk about our problems, that's exactly how we are different from the Russian situation, because in Russia there is no freedom of speech, and it's dangerous --life-threatening-- to fight for your human rights. That's exactly where we are different – it's not that we don't have those problems, it's that we can talk about those problems, we can try to solve them. And I think we should value it very much!" says the filmmaker.

Zabarauskas is part of a small but growing group of queer artists who push for civil rights equality with provoking art. Additionally, he has published a book profiling gay Lithuanians. Gathering dozens of stories of queer people in a country of less than three million would not be possible few years ago, Zabarauskas says by pointing out moderate progress with growing acceptance of LGBT people in the Baltics. 

"I am a true believer in societal change. I believe it has to come from the society itself, from people themselves. It is easy for me to talk because I come from a privileged background and an open-minded family, but I am very proud of all those people who joined our book - and it's 99 people - and they come from very different backgrounds, from smaller cities, very difficult situations, but they also choose to speak up. And that is really awesome," Zabarauskas says.

Romas Zabarauskas, a Lithuanian filmmaker joined Maxim Eristavi from Vilnius, Lithuania through Skype during the Sunday Show on October 9th, 2016.