The premiere of “And Then We Danced,” a Georgian-Swedish film with gay protagonists, is underway in all six cinemas in Tbilisi and Batumi on the evening of November 8, while the hate groups, which pledged to disrupt the showing clash with the riot police.
Billed as the “Georgian gay dance romance,” it premiered in Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes in May 2019 and went on to win number of top awards at the Sarajevo Film Festival, Gent Film Festival, Odessa Film Festival and Carl Film Festival.
The screenings of the film in Georgian movie theaters – five in Tbilisi and one in Batumi – are taking place between 8 and 10 of November. Reportedly, all tickets have been immediately sold out.
Radical violent groups and their supporters started to mobilize in central Tbilisi close to Amirani Cinema since morning, vowing to disrupt the screenings.
Sandro Bregadze, leader of ultra-nationalist movement Georgian March, who served as Deputy Minister for Diaspora Issues in 2014-2016, said that they are against “screening a gay-propaganda film.”
“We will gather outside the movie theater, form a human chain and a corridor of shame and each member of the production crew will have to pass through it,” Bregadze announced.
Another leader of Georgian March, Konstantine Morgoshia said that their key goal is not to allow film screening or at least to protest it, so that “entire Georgia sees that 100-200 bastards do not represent Georgia.” “We will do our best not to allow these screenings,” he added.
Dimitri Lortkipanidze, director of the Primakov Russian-Georgian Public Center, saw “pornographic” elements in the film, calling on the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor’s Office to react.
Later at the noon, Levan Vasadze, self-styled “knight” and ultra-conservative, with connections to Russian “Eurasianist” movement and its leader Alexander Dugin, gathered his supporters in Vere Park not far from Amirani Cinema. Vasadze called on his supporters to enter the cinema to disrupt the screening and “to push the police aside.”
Police officers have been mobilized outside all six movie theaters ahead of the screening.
Kakha Bukhrashvili, deputy head of the Patrol Police Department told reporters earlier today that police would ensure security of all citizens. He called on organizers of the rally to observe thelaw and order and to obey police. “We will react immediately to any violation,” he said.
Also today, the Interior Ministry convened a news briefing, pledging to protect public safety and order, as well as to ensure the freedom of expression by each and every citizen. “We call on everyone to observe the law; otherwise, the police will act in frames of its mandate and each violation will be stopped immediately,” the Ministry said.
Protesters Tried to Break into Cinema
Around 6pm, as the hate groups and their supporters moved from Vere Park and the Concert Hall towards Amirani Cinema, the crowd tried to storm the police cordon deployed outside. Around 7pm several protesters threw firecrackers towards the cinema.
Some moviegoers reported that they could not enter the screening, as the riot police kept blocking the entrance. In its tweet, Tbilisi Pride urged the Ministry of Interior to “take an immediate action. People with tickets cannot enter the cinema and situation is out of hand.” It also called the police to “take away the leaders of homophobic protest!”
As of 9 pm, the screening is underway in all six cinemas, however, the situation remained tense outside Amirani Cinema.
Film Director’s reaction
Levan Akin, film director, responded to Tbilisi protests through his Instagram page.
“Some far right groups and the Church have basically condemned the film and are planning to stop people from entering the sold out 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 said.
“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 proves how vital it is to stand up against these shadowy forces in any way we can,” Akin added.
The Georgian Patriarchate also expressed its negative stance towards the film. “The Georgian Orthodox Church had always been, is and will be categorically intolerant to any sin, generally, and especially to popularization and legalization of sodomy. Therefore, we deem screening of such film in a movie theater absolutely unacceptable,” it said.