Film Review: Saturday Church & Desperado LGBT Film Festival

Written by M.V. Moorhead Category: Visual Arts Issue: February 2018

saturdaychurchposterA little awkward, like any 14-year-old's coming-of-age story, Saturday Church is an original, heartfelt musical of Ulysses' odyssey to self acceptance – like many of the films at the ninth annual Desperado Film Festival.

Perhaps ironically, Saturday Church doesn't play until Sunday evening. The film closes this year's Desperado LGBT Film Festival at 6:45 p.m. February 11, at the Center for Performing Arts at Paradise Valley Community College.

The feature debut of writer-director Damon Cardasis, Saturday Church tells the story of Ulysses (Luka Kain), a New York teenager who has begun to notice an interest in wearing women's clothes. His devoutly churchgoing family – recently widowed Mom, sternly religious Aunt Rose and pesky younger brother – have noticed it too. Thus Ulysses begins an odyssey (see what Cardasis did there?) that takes him to an Episcopal church in the Bronx with a Saturday night program for transgendered youth, where he finds acceptance and love.

Initially, the film has nice low-key realistic feel, something like one of those "After-School Specials" of the '70s, but here and there, it shifts into a musical number – one of the best, early on, is a woozy, scary dance sequence between Ulysses and some jock bullies in a locker room. The two styles – naturalistic drama and extravagant musical – coexist a little awkwardly in the same movie, but the result is heartfelt and original. Kain is deeply touching as Ulysses, and the ensemble around him is exuberant.

The Desperado Festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday, February 9 with Tadeo Garcia's En Algun Lugar, in which two young men find their relationship threatened by U.S. immigration policy. Other titles include Heart, Baby (7:30 p.m. Friday), Angela Shelton's prison drama about boxer George Lee Martin; Lorne Clarkson's A Year in Transition (11:30 a.m. Saturday), a documentary about an Arab-American beginning the transition process from man to woman, and Snapshots (4:15 p.m. Sunday), Melanie Mayron's intergenerational family drama.

Fergus O'Brien's Against the Law (3:15 p.m. Saturday) dramatizes the decriminalization of homosexuality in Great Britain; Jennifer Reeder's Signature Move (5:15 p.m. Saturday) is a cross-cultural comedy about a Pakistani lesbian Muslim lawyer in Chicago; After Louie (8:15 p.m. Saturday) stars Alan Cuming as an aging gay-rights activist in a relationship with a younger man. Joachim Trier's supernatural tale Thelma, (1:45 p.m. Sunday), from Norway, concerns a young woman whose sexuality and telekinetic powers are awakened at the same time.

The Fest also features a variety of shorts programs. All access passes are $80 and include priority seating and entry to all films. Go to or call 602-787-7738 for details.