The upcoming musical drama, Saturday Church, can best be described as Moonlight meets La La Land. This is said with the best of intentions as the lead character is both questioning their sexuality and gender identity.
Written and directed by Damon Cardasis, the musical stars Luka Kain, Margot Bingham, Regina Taylor, Marquis Rodriguez, MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Alexia Garcia, Kate Bornstein, and Jaylin Fletcher.
Ulysses (Kain) is a 14-year old boy who is now the “man of the house” following the death of his dad. This would be a great thing for Ulysses if he wasn’t questioning his own gender identity. He lives at home with his mom (Bingham), younger brother, Abe (Fletcher) and in a running theme this week for disapproving relatives, his conservative aunt, Rose (Taylor).
Ulysses is able to escape his reality by a creating his own world of fantasy that consists of dance and music. His journey takes him to Saturday Church, a LGBTQ youth program run by, Joan (Bornstein). Trying to live up to his aunt’s wishes, Ulysses somehow finds a way to keep the two worlds separate even though living a double life is not an easy thing to do.
In his first leading performance, Kain delivers a breakthrough performance. While there might be a jab or two from the trans community for filmmakers deciding to cast a cisgender actor in the leading role, there shouldn’t be. Kain’s character is still discovering who they are in the film and if there is a transition that takes place, it’s not until after the events of the film.
Given the transgender themes at hand in the film, the filmmakers notably cast transgender talent MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, and Kate Bornstein. This is one of the most important aspects of Saturday Church as it would have been hard to make a film with gender identity as one of the underlying themes and not cast transgender talent. It also helps that Cardasis brings a lot of his own personal experience to the film, having volunteered with an LGBTQ youth program. As if writing and directing the film aren’t enough, he also wrote the lyrics for the music in the film.
While it’s still important for transgender people to be able to tell our own stories, Cardasis does more than an adequate job in providing for transgender representation. It’s hopeful that the day will come when trans directors and writers are telling these stories but most importantly, transgender talent need to be the ones who are cast in transgender roles.
Saturday Church is a must-watch story of self-discovery.
Samuel Goldwyn Films releases Saturday Church in select theaters, VOD, and Digital platforms on Friday, January 12, 2018.