Orthodoxy in Dialogue’s readers will recall that the Georgian Orthodox Church hosted the notoriously homophobic World Congress of Families in 2016, which earned Father Josiah Trenham the distinction of coming to the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch Staff.
In the 21st century, to what extent—if at all—is the Church in a majoritarian Orthodox country justified in trying to control artistic expression and popular culture?
In Georgia, far right groups and the Orthodox Church join forces against the premiere of the Swedish film And Then We Danced, shot in Georgia and featuring a gay Georgian dancer.
And Then We Danced, which notably will open the 32nd annual Image+Nation Film Festival in Montreal on November 21, is a tender story of the discovery of gay love filmed in Tbilisi, Georgia.
The Swedish producer and scriptwriter, Levan Akin—of Georgian origin—filmed the story of a student at the National Georgian Academy of Ballet who feels attracted to another dancer. However, because of the extremely conservative and homophobic environment at the school, the two young men have to keep their love secret.
The movie was recently chosen as the official candidate from Sweden for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. Tickets for the premiere in Tbilisi on November 8 sold out in a matter of minutes.
But the film’s popularity has greatly displeased ultra-conservative groups in Georgia, who call it “revolting.” In order to combat “homosexual propaganda,” the nationalist organization Georgian March has committed itself to preventing the film from being shown.
The Georgian Orthodox Church is just as opposed to the film, and wishes to express its “very great protest” against it. The Church’s head of public relations even appeared on television to affirm that “[the film] is a new attempt to minimize Georgian Christian values.”
“There are certain forces which seem deeply bothered by the Church’s authority, by the people’s love for God, and by traditional values. They use all means to try to weaken them,” the clergyman said.
Equality Movement, the Georgian group for the defense of LGBT rights, has called on the police to intervene against possible agression toward viewers in the movie theatres showing the film.
Threats have become so serious that the Ministry of Public Affairs published a declaration promising to ensure public safety during all shows:
On November 8, 9, and 10, different movie theatres in Batumi and Tbilisi will be showing the premiere of And Then We Danced. Different groups have threatened to disrupt the showing of the film. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia ensures the protection of public safety and public order, as well as freedom of expression. We say to everyone: Respect the law. If not, the police will utilize its legal mandate and immediately put a stop to illegal acts.
This report appeared in French on November 8, 2019 at Fugues. Translated by Giacomo Sanfilippo.
Addendum 11/9/19: For an update of the situation on the ground see today’s Homophobic Protesters Attack Filmgoers at Georgian Film Premiere at OC (Open Caucasus) Media.
See the Sexuality and Gender, Fifty Years after Stonewall, and Fath & the Arts sections in our Archives.
Karl Mayer’s complete list of articles for Fugues is available here.
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