When Levan Akin's coming-of-age feature And Then We Danced had its world premiere at Cannes last spring, the film received a 15-minute standing ovation. Critics were similarly moved in January, when the film had its U.S. premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival: The Sweden-born filmmaker with Georgian roots has been lauded for celebrating Georgia's renowned dance culture as well as his sharp critique of the country's deep-seated homophobia.
But the project sparked an entirely different reaction after its premiere in Tbilisi last November. "We could only release it for three days because there were such heavy riots," the filmmaker recalled when we spoke to him in Park City earlier this year. "Thousands of people were standing at the entrances of all the theaters trying to stop people from seeing the film."
Which in a way brought the project full circle. Akin tells us that he began working on the project in 2013 after a small anti-homophobia rally in Tbilisi drew a violent 20,000-person counter-protest. "A lot of people in Georgia are homophobic by default because they haven’t really encountered LGBTQ+ people," Akin says. With And Then We Danced, a creative endeavor he calls his "love letter to Georgia," he hopes all that will soon change.
Below, hear more from Akin about And Then We Danced. Sundance Institute would like to thank Tbilisi Pride for providing footage and photos.