Georgian gay-love film sparks homophobic attacks
Protesters blocked the road outside a city centre cinema ahead of the premiere of “And Then We Danced” about two young male Georgian ballet dancers falling in love. Chanting “Long live Georgia” and “Shame”, the protesters tried to break into the venue but were held back by riot police that cordoned off the site.
Tickets for the three days of screenings of the Swedish-Georgian gay-themed film at various cinemas in Tbilisi and the port of Batumi rapidly sold out. But the powerful Orthodox church denounced the movie as an attempt to undermine traditional values and legalise sinful behaviour.
Orthodox clerics denounced the movie as an “affront to the traditional Georgian values”.
Activists threw firecrackers and smoke bombs at Tbilisi’s Amirani cinema as mostly young people struggled to get inside. One young cinema-goer was hit by a stone and taken to hospital.
Police said they arrested 12 protesters.
And Then We Danced is Sweden’s official Oscar submission in the best international feature film category.
Tensions began rising weeks ago as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups, movie critics and religious leaders entered the debate.
Nationalist group Alt-Info called on followers to join the protest with a video that called the movie part of “an informational and ideological war between conservatism and liberalism”.
The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs said it would “ensure the protection of public safety and order, as well as the freedom of self-expression. We address everyone: obey the law. Otherwise, the police will use their lawful mandate and suppress unlawful acts immediately.”
The Swedish director, Levan Akin, refused to cancel the screenings.
“It is absurd that people who bought tickets need to be brave and risk getting harassed or even assaulted just for going to see a film,” he posted on Facebook.
“I made this film with love and compassion. It is my love letter to Georgia and to my heritage. With this story, I wanted to reclaim and redefine Georgian culture to include all not just some.
“But unfortunately these are the dark times we live in and the pending protests just prove how vital it is to stand up against these shadowy forces in any way we can.”
Tbilisi pride 2019. Picture credit: Wikimedia