In the age of social media, brickbat comments are an occupational hazard for any filmmaker. Actual bricks, thankfully, tend to be a lot rarer. But when the powerful Georgia-set LGBTQ+ drama ‘And Then We Danced’ opened in its capital Tbilisi, the trolls actually turned up to the cinema – and things got scary, fast. ‘We screened the film for three days,’ says writer-director Levan Akin, ‘and audiences seeing it had to brave crazy people throwing rocks at them. It was insane.’
‘I wanted to do something hopeful because it’s such dark times we’re living in’
With police guarding screenings from the homophobic mob, 6,000 brave souls caught Akin’s powerful story of a young dancer getting to grips with his sexuality. The film, which premiered at Cannes before opening in Tbilisi in November, reflects an intolerant society – and that society decided to reflect itself straight back. Ultra-nationalist groups protested against it; even the church weighed in. ‘I still get death threats,’ says Akin. ‘The creepiest ones are voice messages on Instagram.’
But there’s been a ton of love too, with filmmakers like ‘God’s Own Country’ director Francis Lee reaching out in solidarity and supportive messages flowing in. ‘I get 50 of them a day,’ says Akin. ‘Someone said: “I brought my grandma to the movie. She’s never seen a gay person and she was crying by the end.” We can reach those people.’ Thanks to that eventful cinema run, a warm Cannes reception and its growing international profile, ‘And Then We Danced’ has become the little film that could change minds.
Levan Akin (left) with star Levan Gelbakhiani. Photograph: Carla Orrego Veliz.
Akin, who was raised in Sweden by Georgia-born parents, and once interned for auteur Roy Andersson (‘I just rang the doorbell and asked if I could. I ended up working on “You, the Living”’), shot the film in 25 days, mostly guerilla-style. ‘I wanted to do something hopeful because it’s such dark times we’re living in,’ he says. ‘[The film] is a love letter to the country, and to culture and art and how they’re always changing.’ Its timely message of love overcoming intolerance has struck a major chord in Georgia. ‘It’s been a game changer,’ says Akin. A few creepy Insta messages have been a small price to pay. ‘You know what? I don’t even listen to them.’
‘And Then We Danced’ opens Fri Mar 13. Read our review here.