“Let’s do some Princess Diary shit, now purse your lips….” orders Dijon (Indya Moore)to Ulysses (Luka Kain), a 14 year old Black kid searching for a place that is better than his home in Saturday Church. Dijon is applying the lipstick on Ulysses, the sex questioning young man whose father has died in an American conflict, his remains returned, and now Ulysses and his little brother Abe have to live with their conservative and ‘Holy Roller’ Aunt Rose, who is upset that her nephew is drawn to wearing women’s clothing. It’s not “natural” she says.
Ulysses escapes down on Chelsea Piers, Greenwich Village where he meets all the beautiful Queers of Colour:Trans women Dijon, Heaven and Ebony. These “Three Graces” lead him to Saturday Church and into the world of Ball and Walk and Vogue culture. “Tell me that’s not some Taraji P. Henson shit right there,” I’m thinking of upgrading my look to Melanie Griffith in ‘Working Girl”, says Dijon finalising her look for the upcoming Ball Showcase.
A film that is part fantasy, part coming of age, a mini musical, Blackness motivational and not shy in coming forward with Black Trans representation. Of interest it is written and directed by Damon Cardasis, who is white, and has said in interviews that as “ A white, gay male has a very different experience and most likely much easier experience than a trans person of colour — there are other people in the community that have it much more difficult than I do”, so in order to be true he spent time in the spaces of real-life Saturday programs for Queer kids, mostly trans and gender non-conforming, at an Episcopal Church in NYC’s West Village.
The musical part of the film is a bit thin on the ground, but it kind of works in its minimalism, and we savour the times when they do sing, more a genuine feeling then what Glee would pass as ‘queer’.- (something is not quite right here grammatically, but I actually can’t pinpoint. I think its not …. Then what Glee would pass maybe it’s then how Glee would pass as “queer or Then how Glee would pass for queer- not sure)
Composer Nathan Larson has a connection to Queerness in films he has scored like Velvet Goldmine, Boys Don’t Cry and The Skeleton Twins. Saturday Church has been compared to Moonlight meets La La Land, which is a mistake, and is over-reaching.
If people want to compare to musicals a suggestion of Rent would be the way to go, with an Angel and Tom Collins ‘shipping’ as older versions of Ulysses and swoon worthy Raymond Jackson (Martquis Rodriguez), a young man who takes a love shine to Ulysses.
It’s a new idea in that it’s a story like a Young Black Adult Fiction given life on the big screen, a young person’s challenges with sexual identity, Religious conflicts and Ballroom, a recipe for confronting realities, and beautiful Butch Queen Ups in Pumps.