Thu, 14 Nov 2019

Several hundred far-right activists staged a protest in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, against an Oscar-nominated Swedish-Georgian gay-themed film which premiered amid a heavy police presence.

The anti-gay protesters, gathered outside the Amirani cinema in the capital Tbilisi, chanted 'Long live Georgia!' and 'Shame!' before burning the rainbow flag while an Orthodox priest recited a prayer.

Georgia's Interior Ministry said 11 protesters were arrested for 'disobeying police.'

The movie, 'And Then We Danced' -- Sweden's official Oscar submission in the best international feature film category -- is a love story about two male dancers in Georgia's national ballet ensemble.

The film has won worldwide critical acclaim but was denounced by the Georgia's Orthodox Church as an 'affront to the traditional Georgian values.'

The cinema let ticket holders inside for the evening premiere showing and then shut the doors.

Sandro Bregadze, a former junior minister in the ruling Georgian Dream party's government, said earlier this week that his nationalist Georgian March organization would not allow the film to be showed in Tbilisi, calling it 'propaganda of sodomy.'

'Some far right groups and the Church have basically condemned the film and are planning to stop people from entering the sold out screenings,' the film's director Levan Akin, a Swede with Georgian roots, wrote on his Facebook page earlier on November 8.

Georgia's Interior Ministry issued a statement, promising to ensure 'the protection of public safety and order, as well as the freedom of self-expression.'

The ministry said its units remain deployed with the purpose of protecting public safety and order.

Homosexuality was banned in Georgia after the country was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1921 and it is still highly stigmatized in the socially conservative Caucasus nation.

Homosexuality was only decriminalized in 2000, with anti-discrimination laws adopted in 2006.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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