Shedding the Sigma
In “Saturday Church”, director Damon Cardasis introduces us to Ulysses (Luka Kain), a 14-year-old boy, struggling with gender identity and religion, who starts using fantasy as a way to escape his life in the inner city and find his passion in the process. The film works to help shed the stigma that some people on homosexuality and transgender people that still exists in today’s world. The film tells a simple story while letting everyone know that being gay or different shouldn’t matter and it doesn’t.
Ulysses deals with bullies, both at school and at home. He is fatherless, and has just been “taken under the wing” by his religious and stubborn aunt Rose (Regina Taylor). Ulysses is an innocent young man who is just starting to discover who he is sexually and as a young adult. Rose detests some of his behavior while Ulysses sees what he does as acts of freedom in a society that sees them as shameful.
He goes into the West Village world of Christopher Street in New York City, where homosexuality is commonplace and nothing to be ashamed of and discovers Saturday Church”, an establishment that Ulysses is welcomed into with open arms by a group of transgender women. He is shy and reserved at first and does not know what to make of this place and its inhabitants. As he continues his journey toward adulthood, he meets a love interest and forms a strong bond with his fellow “churchgoers.”
He faces some very complex moments that are filled with charm and beauty. We watch Ulysses break out in dance in some really wonderful musical moments that are scattered throughout the film. In fact, we are watching something of a musical and the dance numbers are spectacular making this an original looking at growing up and coming out.
The scenes in the streets are gritty and real and the film is not only deep and meaningful, but it is also visually stunning. This is a human story that is relatable to all and is really a journey of self-discovery.
Luka Kain has great emotional depth and he carries the film. The themes of love and acceptance remind us that people come in different shapes, sizes, genders, race and at the end of the day, none of that is really important. What’s important is the human connection and acceptance and love and truly being oneself. The actual Saturday Church program
was held at the St. Lucas Church in the West Village of New York City and it provided social services, food and a safe space for LGBTQ kids from the surrounding area every Saturday. The kids would come in and talk to somebody about what was going on in their lives, or for job advice, or counseling or housing advice. There was a gymnasium that was adjacent to the cafeteria, and the kids would vogue and dance and perform there.
For the first 15 minutes, “Saturday Church” but after about fifteen minutes into it, it changes when we meet Ulysses is like so many other countless teen movies, from “Pariah” to “Viva,” to name just two semi-recent breakouts. (Because teens tend to reject anything older than six months, the LGBT film circuit has a near-unquenchable appetite for virtually identical coming-out stories, as otherwise-generic offerings prove revelatory to virgin eyes.)
However familiar his predicament, it’s still heartbreaking to watch as fatherless 14-year-old Ulysses who associates shame and anguish with each of this desires. He wrestles with what he believes to be a damnable identity in private, especially after his aunt Rose threatens to kick him out of the house if he doesn’t shape up. Director Cardasis invites us to discuss issues of intolerance and hypocrisy as we see that it still exists right here in the United States.