Sundance 2020 Review: “And Then We Danced” (2019) ★★★★★

Photo by Music Box Films

Dance. Love. Culture. Prejudice. Ill-minded society and closed-minded people; it’s the reality of every country you find on the map. One keeps its eyes open, another one attacks anyone who they find ‘different’. From where I am (neighboring country to Georgia), films like “And Then We Danced” don’t get a chance to live. In fact, it normally gets axed at the beginning with no chance for survival, not to mention, the cast and crew would not be even allowed to enter the set. But Levan Akin’s film is absolutely mind-blowing and the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in 2020 which makes me regret that I did not get a chance to see it in 2019.

Written and directed by Levan Akin, “And Then We Danced” is set in a Modern but very conservative Georgia’s Tbilisi. It follows Merab, an exceptional dancer who finds himself in the midst of critical preparation for his upcoming audition, but all of that is being jeopardized after the new dancer, Irakli, joins the group. As he deeply falls for him, the young man must try to find the right balance not to lose his spot in the dance group, liberate himself from who he is not, and allow himself to feel what is forbidden by society.

When the film opens, the large group of dancers, along with Merab, are rehearsing hard for a spot in the National Georgian Ensemble. Merab’s brother, David, dances as well but does not take it as seriously as his younger brother. Merab himself is very popular among his group and is sure to get the desired qualification. Irakli is an excellent dancer himself; he perfects each move and is capable to leave each opponent behind. His rebellious attitude and free spirit strike Merab. As soon as he sees him, he can’t get his eyes off Irakli. As the two begin their friendship, it slowly develops to a level where the two men must decide their own future. But there’s one thing you should make no mistake about – it’s a beautifully crafted love story we don’t see often nowadays.

The screenplay of “And Then We Danced” is detailed enough to provide you with a flawless narrative for you to be blown away entirely. The superb and subtle performances delivered by Levan Gelbakhiani as Merab, Rachi Valishvili as Irakli, Giorgi Tsereteli as David, and Ana Javakishvili as Mary is everything you must see in this poignant and moving love story. But it’s not just about love, it’s a coming-of-age story as well that will throw a young and kind-hearted man such as Merab to be tested to the limit. As he learns how to navigate through the endless ocean of exciting feelings, there is one scene, however, that will touch you deeply. It’s when David and Merab talk about each other, the incident that took place and what lead to it. That emotional connection the two brothers share is a rare jewel of cinema we don’t see often coming from the former Soviet countries.

In the end, it will be a big understatement to say that “And Then We Danced” is a ground-breaking cinema coming from Georgia -it’s the first of its kind. From start to end, it is filled with heart and soul. It has that touch of purity the cinematic world can offer while the story of Merab will melt your heart. It indeed delivers an unforgettable and transformative experience you as a viewer will never forgive yourself if you miss it.

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