Protestors Clash with Police at Screening of Gay-Themed Movie in Tbilisi, Georgia

AND THEN WE DANCED Still 2 -Directors’ Fortnight selection- Publicity-H 2019
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

The opening of Levan Akin's 'And Then We Danced' was condemned by religious authorities and ultra-nationalists in the former Soviet republic.

Screenings of a gay-themed film by a Swedish filmmaker of Georgian descent have been met with demonstrations by hundreds of ultra-nationalist and religious protestors in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi.

Friday's opening of Levan Akin's And Then We Danced — which premiered in Cannes'  Directors' Fortnight sidebar earlier this year, where it was nominated for the festival's Queer Palm award — was marred when protestors clashed with police outside Tbilisi's central Amirani cinema and at some of the other four venues in the capital and the coastal city of Batumi.

Hundreds of demonstrators blocked the street outside the Amirani cinema as police struggled to keep a corridor open for viewers of the sellout screening to enter.

Footage shared on social media showed placard-waving protestors — some holding crucifixes and religious icons — chanting "long live Georgia" and "shame."

Demonstrators also set fire to a rainbow flag and tossed firecrackers and smoke bombs toward the cinema entrance. One young woman was hit on the head by a missile and was taken to hospital in an ambulance, according to reports that said a dozen protestors had been arrested.

In its review, The Hollywood Reporter acknowledged that the film's subject — a romance between two male ballet dancers — touches on elements in Georgian life considered both taboo (homosexuality) and sacred (dance).

Georgian authorities had stressed that the screenings should go ahead, despite widespread warnings of disruptions. The country, which hopes one day to join the European Union, has been struggling in recent years to reconcile deeply conservative views with a more liberal, modernizing path.