Working single mother Amara, whose husband has just passed away, leaves her two sons at home with domineering, religious Aunt Rose, who has her eyes on her quiet, distant, 14-year-old nephew, Ulysses (Luka Kain). Acting secretive, stealing nylons, wearing his mother’s shoes: Ulysses is just beginning to explore his identity and sexuality. When Rose demands an end to it, the teen escapes to the Village, and connects with a vibrant group of supportive friends from the transgender community, who take him to Saturday Church – a program for LGBTQ youth. Ulysses soon discovers the inspiration to become exactly what he is feeling inside. The problem: Rose is waiting back home in the Bronx for him. In Ulysses’ best moments, he sees and hears music all around him, and yet he faces some of the worst circumstances imaginable — in this musical coming-of-age drama about finding a literal sanctum, in order to find oneself. Producer, writer, director, Damon Cardasis’ new film Saturday Church — featuring a quietly electric break-out performance by Luka Cain — makes its divine world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival!
Director DAMON CARDASIS stated,
My mother is an Episcopal Priest in The Bronx. I am a gay male. Having a progressive mother as a priest, I have been afforded a unique vantage point of seeing how institutional religion has warped the Bible into an almost unrecognizable state, and how LGBTQ children have suffered because of it. Many LGBTQ people struggle with self-acceptance and most are dealt an even tougher blow when they are raised in religious households. Thankfully, though, there are those that interpret religion in a different way and are trying to make a positive difference.
For months I held focus groups with LGBTQ youth, mostly trans and gender non-conforming, at an Episcopal Church in NYC’s West Village. St. Luke in the Fields, subsidizes everything for a weekly program that offers social services and food for struggling youth who come in off the street and allows them to vogue and dance in a gymnasium that’s attached to the program. I listened to their stories and worked to incorporate them into the narrative of the script as well as consulted with other members of the LGBTQ community and their allies; social workers, advisors, GLAAD and prominent members of the NYC Ball scene. The kids who attend this Saturday program have been kicked out of their homes, abused, and have, many times, had to resort to sex work in order to survive. In addition, a large number are homeless and struggling with drug abuse. Having listened to their individual stories of hardship and then having watched them vogue and perform in the nearby gymnasium, it became apparent to me that fantasy needed to be an important element of my screenplay and would be vital in telling the protagonist’s story. Fantasy would allow him to hold on to the thing that is most important in his life; hope. When I wrote SATURDAY CHURCH I wanted to bring together various elements that might not normally be juxtaposed with one another: religion and LGBTQ youth; the inner city with a musical; fantasy and reality. As a director I wanted the film be created in a truthful, authentic way that incorporated the many talents and ideas of the people within that specific community.
SATURDAY CHURCH is the story of a young boy struggling with gender identity, who uses fantasy and music to escape the harsh reality in which he lives and find himself and his passion in the process.We shot in the Summer of 2016 for four weeks in The Bronx and West Village of NYC. More than half the movie was filmed at my mother’s Church (St. Peter’s Westchester Square). It stars first time actors (many of whom are trans or gender non-conforming and attended the program the film is based on). SATURDAY CHURCH includes six original musical numbers as well as dance pieces. It has been supported by some of the most important voices in the LGBTQ community as well as members of the New York City Ball scene.