Hot docs

How the Room Felt Review: To Occupy a Safe Space

Hot Docs 2022

3 mins read

How the Room Felt
(Georgia, 73 min.)
Dir: Ketevan Kapanadze
Programme: Changing Face of Europe
North American Premiere


A group of Georgian queers laugh, argue, party and love in this intimate and nuanced portrait of a close-knit LGBTQ+ community. The title references an Audre Lorde poem in which she describes a room as warm but “unfree.” Here, although there are some scenes of the group playing football and at their team’s canteen or at night outdoors, the bulk of the action is at indoor parties where director Ketevan Kapanadze’s fly-on-the-wall-like camera looms.

The idea is that these people have created a protective bubble where they can be themselves and they are that. They argue about gender, they talk openly about their anxieties – sometimes about suicide – they dance together, kiss, tell stories about their families. In one memorable sequence one of them describes their coming out process, which wound up bonding their homophobic grandmother with a homophobic relative she hadn’t talked to in years.

Kapanadze understands the close interconnectedness of members of a queer community, the ways the children of queers are integrated into the social group, how exes remain friends. It is no coincidence that the film begins with one calling another over to plant a big kiss on their lips which leads the two of them to declare their eternal love. The thing is, they’re not in a lover relationship, they have a queer friendship.

There is a reason why so much of the action takes places at night or in specific women’s spaces. Georgia is a hostile environment for queers. An upsetting scene tracks one of the group as she packs her bag to leave town for a new life. Outside, a group of extreme right haters is screaming homophobic venom during a loud and obviously well-attended demonstration. Kapanadze’s subjects eye each other but can barely speak.

Alcohol figures prominently here as the group drinks prodigiously but also talks openly about the ways alcoholism has created havoc over generations. How the Room Felt is, however, not a downer. At a New Year’s Eve celebration, they express positivity facing the coming year and commit to their friendships. The film kind of creeps up on you as you appreciate the community they’ve built under not easy circumstances.

And the music is great. John Lennon’s Love, for example, is exquisitely positioned, creating a quiet moment in a mostly boisterous film.

How the Room Felt premieres at Hot Docs on May 4.


Susan G. Cole is a playwright, broadcaster, feminist commentator and the Books and Entertainment editor at NOW Magazine, where she writes about film. She is the author of two books on pornography and violence against women: Power Surge and Pornography and the Sex Crisis (both Second Story books), and the play A Fertile Imagination. She is the the editor of Outspoken (Playwrights Canada Press), a collection of lesbian monologues from Canadian plays. Hear her every Thursday morning at 9 AM on Talk Radio 640’s Media and the Message panel or look for her monthly on CHTV’s Square Off debate.

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