March for Dignity
(U.S./Georgia, 74 min.)
Dir. John Eames
One of the great things about seeing documentaries is that you encounter parts of the world you have never seen before. In the context of a documentary oriented Human Rights Festival, this is a mixed blessing as you will likely find out bad things about the locale you’re viewing, but in March for Dignity, the country of Georgia, the birthplace of Stalin–a picturesque region in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas, is shown in its complexity with genuine understanding.
March for Dignity focuses on Georgia’s LGBTI+ activists, who have been fighting unsuccessfully to mount a non-violent Pride parade in the capital city of Tbilisi over the past decade. Their opposition of right-wing populists is given a fair shake, allowed to say repeatedly that the queer community is welcome to be themselves but a parade, which they view as propaganda, brings out their violent repressive nature. Georgia’s law does accept homosexuality, so it seems that the anger against marches is really about making sure that LGBTI+ way of life isn’t celebrated.
That said, the violence we see in March for Dignity is appalling. Footage of parades from 2013 and 2014 is shown and the aftermath remains scary even now. We see queer demonstrators transported out of the parade site in a yellow bus targeted by the purportedly law-abiding populists, who throw rocks, breaking windows, while foul language is used to denigrate them. People are hit and hurt, and the anger is palpable.
In 2019, when most of the film was shot, the question confronting the leaders was “how do we mount a parade and not be targeted by more appalling behaviour?” The answer took time as a strategy was mounted. Meanwhile, the roving doc camera captured the preparations for the parade and the mounting opposition against it. That tension, which makes the film compulsively watchable, is resolved in the best possible manner as the LGBTI+ organizers, all of whom speak English quite well, and are subtle thinkers, pull off two media coups involving a drone and an early morning demo. Both work brilliantly.
March for Dignity is a smart, positive doc, well worth seeing. If you watch it—and you should—you’ll see a truly relevant film, one of the few shot in Tbilisi to be seen in the West. It’s a city that is quite beautiful and part of a country, Georgia, that should be embraced before Putin decides to gobble it up.
March for Dignity screened at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.