Director: Levan Akin
Stars: Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishvili
Released: 13th March 2020 (UK)
Levan Akin’s And Then We Danced received great acclaim over the festival season and while the film didn’t receive a warm welcome in Georgia from the far right – Akin’s film has gone from strength to strength in spite of the hate attempted to tarnish a film for giving a platform to the LGBTQ+ voices in the country.
And Then We Danced follows the story of dancer Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani), training since a young age at the National Georgian Ensemble with his partner Mary (Ana Javakishvili) his world is suddenly turned upside down when the charismatic and carefree Irakli (Bachi Valishvili) arrives and becomes both his biggest rival and strongest desire. In this conservative setting, Merab finds himself having to risk it all in order to break free.
A subtly remarkable film that evokes the most wondrous sense of identity – Akin’s film is a neo-realist piece that shows how Georgian youths maintain their heritage but can also be themselves without being silenced. Gay rights in Georgia are basically non-existent and the subject matter becomes a sensitive topic, but it shouldn’t be. Patriarchal rule over the youth of Georgia lingers throughout Akin’s film. There is a respect for tradition by the dancers and Merab but they want to reform tradition and create their own voices. Merab’s awakening blossoms very quaintly and while society judges him, he finds his footing as he becomes who he wants to be.
Akin manoeuvres the camera vibrantly and youthfully as it elevates the dynamic of the dance and the motions Merab is going through. It flows around this rich naturalistic lighting with the powerful shade of orange that foreshadows a new dawn. Akin cleverly hides the polarizing situations that Merab is facing and we only deal with his inner conflict. Akin candidly gazes into the eyes of Merab and Irakli and guides the audience to comprehend their love and desire for each other. Masculinity comes into question from Akin and a unique viewpoint into Georgian dance. The sheer physicality and commitment to the cause creates a tense friction between the dancers.
Levan Gelbakhiani’s leading performance as Merab is a pure revelation. For him to take on this role as a Georgian man was both brave and inspiring. He becomes Merab with such fragility and prowess. Merab’s journey is a tender, coming of age tale, as he finds his identity and creative passion. Through his body language and tone, we see someone on a journey that will change his life for the better. His co-star Bachi Valishvili is the key to open Merba’s wold he brings the best out of him. The chemistry between our two protagonists is nothing but inspirational and yet so tragic that they had to shy away from who they truly are. Akin surrounds them with a truly eclectic array of characters that display a diverse Tbilisi divided by polarising opinions but unified by dance.
And Then We Danced has a true and wonderful voice. Identity is created by all types of journeys and this one floored me.
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