After taking the Cannes Film Festival by storm last year and winning awards all over the world, the acclaimed, gay-themed “And Then We Danced” is now starting its U.S. theatrical run. After a special screening on March 4, it opens in Atlanta on March 6.
A story about a young man finding himself amidst the conservative ideals of the country of Georgia, the film follows Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani) a dancer hoping to find a spot on the National Georgian Ensemble. The arrival of handsome new male dancer Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) complicates Merab’s professional and personal life.
Director and writer Levan Akin, who is gay, spent four years on the project. “The genesis of the idea came in 2013 when a number of people tried to have a parade in Georgia, on what would have been the first Pride Parade in Georgia,” he says. “They were attacked by a mob of 20,000 people, organized by the church. I live in Sweden and saw that and said I should go to Georgia and research this. In 2016, I went there and started doing research and that developed into ‘And Then We Danced.’”
It was not an easy shoot, however, as the crew had to film in secret. “It was pretty difficult. We had to have lifeguards on set because we had to be secretive about the shoot. We had to change locations sometimes on short notice because they would find out what they were doing.”
Young Merab is dealing with a lot during the film. “He has a lot of responsibility and pressure on his shoulder,” says Akin. “He has a legacy of coming from an old dancer family and wanting to live up to that legacy. At the same time, he is not able to because he is not accepted the way he is in this traditional society that he loves.”
When Irakli enters the picture, things change for Merab. “It gives him courage. I wanted to make a film that is hopeful. Merab never questions his sexuality. He never goes through the darkness. He is engulfed with love and that love helps him on his journey to becoming the dancer he wants to be, choosing how he wants to interpret the dance tradition and evolve it, as he does in the final dance.”
Akin found out in April that he had been accepted to Cannes. “That was really intense. The actors had never seen the film and it was barely finished. We sat there in the audience and watched it. It was a once in a lifetime experience. When the film was done, we got a 15-minute standing ovation. We were all over the moon.”
He found lead actor Gelbakhiani on Instagram. A casting agent approached the actor and after he was hired, Akin and Gelbakhiani formed a close working relationship. Gelbakhiani is a contemporary dancer, with no formal Georgian dance training, but he picked up the moves quickly.
When the film actually screened in Georgia, there were some protests from certain religious groups but it gave the film added attention. In some countries, some people have walked out during the sex scenes. But in those conservative countries, the film has been even better received for those looking for a movie like this to see a culture they can identify with, says Akin.
A common thread in all Akin’s world is being the outsider, being someone who doesn’t fit in the norm. “The theme here is universal,” he says, “Everyone has this yearning of being 100 percent themselves and telling others to fuck off. Some people feel trapped in their lives. I think at some point in their life everyone has wanted to do something like Merab does – a fuck-you dance.”
“And Then We Danced”
Advance Out On Film screening and reception
Wednesday, March 4 @ 7pm
Midtown Art Cinema
Regular engagement starts March 6