By Nabeela Damji
Damon Cardasis’ feature film Saturday Church is a heartwarming story about a young boy’s quest to find himself, when his family and the world are not accepting of who he is. He must go out into the world and find acceptance in the hands of strangers, who in turn become more like family than those who are.
The opening scene of the film shows Ulysses, played by newcomer Luka Kain, and his family at the funeral of his father who was killed in combat. Ulysses, his mother Amara (Margot Bingham) and his younger brother Abe (Jaylin Fletcher) are now forced to adapt to a new way of living. As Amara takes on a heavier workload, she asks Aunt Rose (Regina Taylor) to help out with the kids.
Ulysses harbors a dark secret, wearing his mothers stockings under his jeans to school, and trying on her shoes. Aunt Rose lets him know that she won’t stand for this, even going as far as signing him up to be an acolyte at church.
Needing to get out of his stressful environment at home, Ulysses heads to Greenwich Village, where he meets a group of gay and transgender people – Ebony (Mj Rodriguez), Dijon (Indya Moore), Heaven (Alexis Garcia), and Raymond (Marquis Rodriguez. The group takes young Ulysses to Saturday Church, run by trans activist Joan (Kate Bornstein), who feeds and clothes the kids, and allows them a free space to be themselves.
From there Ulysses experiences love, betrayal, heartbreak and much more in a quest to find himself, and to be accepted by his family.
The directing by Cardasis shows the emotion Ulysses and other characters are feeling on screen. For example, when Ulysses shares a kiss with Raymond, as he walks up the stairs of the subway, there are flower petals as a sign of his inner happiness and blossoming into the person he’s supposed to be. Those small gestures in direction are what make this film stand out.
The films music however, was the part of the film lacked the most. The songs are filled with strong lyrics, however the directing and visuals are what make it awkward and sometimes cringeworthy. Ulysses first solo comes 20 minutes into the film, and is awkward and poorly done. However, it does get better from there, if only slightly. Camera shots linger on every note during some songs, and it makes for extremely awkward viewing, sometimes a little cringeworthy.
Overall, the film is a heartfelt sentiment to those who are struggling to find themselves, and struggling with the idea of others not accepting them for who they are. This film is emotional, humorous, engaging, and presents the issues facing the LGBTQ community in a fair and respectable light.