Cast: Levan Gelbakhiani, Ana Javakishvili, Anano Makharadze, Bachi Valishvili
Director: Levan Akin
When you piss off ultra-Christian nationalists the way And Then We Danced did, you’ve either made something terribly offensive or you’ve made something phenomenal that scares those bound in tradition. In the case of And Then We Danced, it’s an obvious indication of the later as it will be one of the most impressive foreign language movies you watch this year. As a window into another world, another culture, and another way of life, And Then We Danced feels authentic enough to educate us on a less glamorous portion of the world while still making sure the story transcends traditions and is relatable to everyone who watches this movie.
The film follows Merab (Gelbakhiani), a young Georgian looking to consistently improve and make his way into the main troop so he can make a career of it and provide for his struggling family. When Irakli (Valishvili), a new rebellious dancer, shows up and impresses the group, the two form a rivalry that eventually turns into a deep friendship and eventual love affair. Taking place in a country where homosexuality is strongly discouraged, the two struggle with their relationship and their desire to be the best dancer possible, leading to internal and societal conflict that the two must endure. The main thing that And Then We Danced has working for it is the level of authenticity and realism associated with the plot. A great foreign-language movie can take all of the characters and drop them in a completely different setting and the story would still make sense, and that’s exactly what happens here. The dancing and Georgian culture serve more as plot devices and less as pivotal moments in the movie and while they bring a level of ingenuity to the movie, the main focus is on the star-crossed lovers in the cast. This story could happen anywhere where LGBT people are oppressed, which allows the story to bleed through barriers and grab the attention of everyone involved. I’m not gay, I don’t speak a word of Georgian, and I’ve never stepped foot in the country, but I can completely understand what these characters were going through the phenomenal performances and the subtitles. Through the tight choreography, the traditional score, and the strong dialogue, And Then We Danced checks off every box for a great foreign-language movie and those who watch it should expect something that stays with you for quite some time afterwards. I know this didn’t end up nominated for Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards, but after seeing some of the competitors it went up against, And Then We Danced was more than capable of holding its own and can be argued into almost any of the slots that were given elsewhere. I haven’t seen anything else that Akin has worked on, but if he’s directed anything close to the quality of And Then We Danced then I know that he’ll be well on his way to more international mainstream success.
Overall, And Then We Danced does what other successful LGBT dramas do by focusing almost exclusively on the love and struggles that come with it, but that ends up making these characters much more dimensional and elevates them off of the screen and into our lives. When we look at where the rights of characters like Merab are around the world, it helps us understand that while we’ve made significant progress in some parts of the world, we still have a lot of work to do elsewhere. Movies like And Then We Danced can help normalize and humanize members of the LGBT community and those who are opposed to this movie strictly on religious purposes are bound to end up on the wrong side of history when everything is settled.
Overall Score: 8/10