7th October 2017 6.45pm at Vue West End
8th October 2017 8.45pm at Prince Charles Cinema
14th October 2017 3.45pm at Rich Mix
By writer-director Damon Cardasis, Saturday Church is a soulful exploration of teenage gay and transgender identity presented as a musical. Performing with graceful imaginative spiritedness, Luka Kain is Ulysses, a lonely black youth from the Bronx who has lost his father and struggles with gender confusion. He secretly wears his mother’s clothes and is bullied at school, and so lives in his own fantasy world where he has a place and is loved: “You’re gonna see me/ You’re gonna know me/ You’re gonna love me.”
Ulysses’s conservative religious aunt has taken over the house since his mother is away working, and is outraged when she catches him cross-dressing, threatening to beat him; consequently she coerces him into becoming an altar boy at her local church. While obeying her wishes, Ulysses also begins hanging out on Christopher Street in the West Village around the gay community, furtively watching a group of homosexual and transgender teens – which includes a serene Raymond (Marquis Rodriguez), the affectionately bitchy Heaven (Alexia Garcia) and Dijon (Indya Moore), and the motherly Ebony (MJ Rodriguez) – and he is gradually introduced to them.
They lead Ulysses to a neighbourhood shelter for LGBT kids called “Saturday Church” run by the kindly matriarchal transgender Joan (Kate Bornstein), where they dance in the adjoining auditorium. Helping Ulysses polish his look – “Let’s do some Princess Diaries shit!” – the crew go to work, giving him an uplifting feminine make-over. When his aunt discovers this, however, the 14-year-old is cast out to fend for himself, becoming homeless and prey to sexual exploitation.
The music by Nathan Larson is inspirational, powerfully conveying the protagnist’s feelings. Hillary Fyfe Spera’s cinematography employs artful, intimate close-ups during the songs, which highlight fantasy and emotion. Direction is unobtrusively effective and clearly heartfelt, and the actors are authentic, spontaneous and dynamic.
The film touches on the very important issue of the intolerance many LGBT youths face at home while they are trying to grapple with their sexuality and gender identities. The tragedy is that this lack of parental understanding, compassion and acceptance often drives these kids to the streets and into prostitution and drugs, destroying young lives. About a still marginalised group, Saturday Church carries an important message about the need for social changes. It is a poignant, sensitive, hopeful and ultimately very positive movie.
Saturday Church does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Saturday Church here: