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Damn These Heels Film Festival to run in Salt Lake July 14–16

Written by Staff

Utah Film Center has announced most of films selected to screen in the 2017 Damn These Heels Film Festival, which will run July 14–16, at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in downtown Salt Lake City. Organizers bill the festival as “a celebration of independent, documentary, and foreign films from around the world that explore LGBTQ issues, ideas, and art.”  Passes are now on sale on the Utah Film Center’s website.

The Festival will open with a screening of Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall with director Katherine Fairfax Wright in attendance for a guided discussion after the film.  A second round of official selections including the Centerpiece Screening and Closing Night, along with event and special guest details will be released in the coming weeks. Films in the program were selected by a 24 member programming committee made up of Utah Film Center staff, community members, and representatives from other organizations including a teen committee from the Utah Pride’s Youth Activity Center.

Patrick Hubley, Director of Programming for the Utah Film Center said, “Through Damn These Heels screenings and events we hope to continue to foster the spirit of inclusion, unity and tenacity in the Utah community. These films from all over the world show that now more than ever we need to celebrate our shared humanity no matter our race or sexual orientation.  These stories need to be told and we cannot wait to kick off our 14th year with such a thought-provoking program.”

The films released so far are:

After Louie / USA (Director: Vincent Gagliostro)

After Louie explores the contradictions of modern gay life and history through Sam (Alan Cumming), a man desperate to understand how he and his community got to where they are today. Utah Premiere

Official Selection: 2017 BFI FIare Film Festival

Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall / USA (Director: Katherine Fairfax Wright)

Todrick Hall launches his most ambitious project yet: the full-scale original musical, Straight Outta Oz. From a small town in Texas to big-time show business, comes an inspiring documentary of grit, perseverance and the redemptive power of art. We watch him struggle to write songs about growing up gay and black in small-town Texas, his difficult relationship with his mom, and the harsh realities of trying to make it in show business. With limited time and budget the odds are against him, but Todrick’s passion and his team of talented performers overcome all obstacles to bring this story to the world. Utah Premiere

Official Selection: 2017 SXSW Film Festival, 2017 Outfest
*Opening Night Film
**Director Katherine Fairfax Wright will attend the festival for a guided discussion.

Chavela / USA/Mexico/Spain (Director: Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi)

“Through its lyrical structure, Chavela will take viewers on an evocative, thought-provoking journey through the iconoclastic life of game-changing artist Chavela Vargas. Utah Premiere

Winner: 2nd Place Best Documentary–2017 Berlin International Film Festival

Don’t Call Me Son / Brazil (Director: Anna Muylaert)

Tall, dark, androgynously handsome, Pierre wears eyeliner and a black lace g-string, while having sex with both boys and girls. The confusion only goes deeper when the teenager’s single, working-class mom is arrested for having stolen him at birth. His biological parents are thrilled to have him back, until he shows up in a zebra-print mini dress. Utah Premiere

Winner: Jury Award–2016 Berlin International Film Festival

Femme Brutal / Austria (Director: Nick Prokesch and Liesa Kovacs)

A naked female* body stepping on a stage with self-confidence and autonomy is still a highly political, radical act. Through their queer-feminist performances the seven artists* of Club Burlesque Brutal demand the normality of female* desire. Utah Premiere

Official Selection: 2016 London BFI Flare

Free Cece / USA (Director: Jacqueline Gares) – CeCe McDonald survived a brutal attack, only to be incarcerated for defending her life. After an international movement to free her, CeCe emerged as a leader to interrogate the prison industrial complex and inspire women to fight back when attacked. Utah Premiere

Cast: CeCe McDonald, Laverne Cox
Audience Award Winner: Feature Documentary – 2016 Blackstar Film Festival

God’s Own Country / U.K. (Director: Francis Lee)

It’s spring in Yorkshire. Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.

Winner: World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award–2017 Sundance Film Festival
*Centerpiece Screening presented in partnership with Sundance Institute

Handsome Devil / Ireland (Director: John Butler)

Ned and Conor are forced to share a bedroom at their rugby-mad boarding school. The loner and the star athlete form an unlikely friendship until it’s tested by the authorities. Utah Premiere

Winner: Best Irish Feature–2017 Dublin International Film Festival

Heartstone / Denmark/Iceland (Director: Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson)

A remote fishing village in Iceland. Teenage boys Thor and Christian experience a turbulent summer as one tries to win the heart of a girl while the other discovers new feelings toward his best friend. When summer ends and the harsh nature of Iceland takes back its rights, it’s time to leave the playground and face adulthood. Utah Premiere

Winner: Queer Lion–2016 Venice Film Festival; Official Selection: 2016 Toronto International Film Festival

I Dream In Another Language / Mexico/Netherlands (Director: Ernesto Contreras) – A young linguist travels to the jungle of Mexico to research a language on the verge of disappearing. Once there, he discoverers its last two speakers clashed 50 years ago, and have refused to speak to each other since. Attempting to reunite them, the researcher discovers a secret past—and a forbidden gay love story.

Cast: Fernando Álvarez Rebeil, Eligio Meléndez, Manuel Poncelis, Fátima Molina, Juan Pablo De Santiago, Hoze Meléndez
Winner: Audience Award World Cinema (Dramatic) – 2017 Sundance Film Festival

Like Foam / Spain (Director: Roberto Pérez Toledo)

A message circulates from mobile phone to mobile phone. A bunch of strangers meet in a mansion. They come searching for sex, but never has an orgy been so full of love. West Coast Premiere

Official Selection: 2017 MiFo LGBT FF Miami

Political Animals / USA (Director: John Markowitz, Tracy Wares) – A rousing documentary charting the unstoppable force of four lesbian legislators in California who’ve been fighting for LGBT rights and recognition for decades. Utah Premiere

Cast: Carole Migden, Sheila Kuehl, Jackie Goldberg, Christine Kehoe
Winner: Audience Award – 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival, Provincetown International Film Festival and 8 other awards.

Pushing Dead  / USA (Director: Tom E. Brown) – When a struggling writer, HIV-positive for 20+ years, accidentally deposits a $100 birthday check, he is dropped from his health plan for earning too much. In this new era of sort-of universal care, can he take on a helpless bureaucracy or come up with $3000 a month to buy his meds on his own? Utah Premiere

Cast: James Roday, Robin Weigert, Danny Glover, Khandi Alexander, Tom Riley
Winner: Audience Award  – Frameline 40; 2016 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival; 2017 Ashland Independent Film Festival; 2016 Fresno Reel Pride Film Festival

The Queen of Ireland / Ireland (Director: Conor Horgan)

Documentary about the life of Irish drag queen Panti Bliss, created by Rory O’Neill. Over the last few years Rory has become a figurehead for LGBT rights in Ireland and since the recent scandal around ‘Pantigate,’ his fight for equality and against homophobia has become recognised across the world. Utah Premiere

Winner: Best Documentary– 2015 Dublin Film Critics Circle Award

Raising Zoey / USA (Director: Dante Alencastre)

13 year-old Zoey wants nothing more than to simply go to school, learn, have fun with friends and be a kid. Unfortunately, ignorance and intolerance have not always made this easy. Zoey, with the help of her mother and the ACLU, fought school officials for her right to self-identify in school. Even in the face of bullying and endless teasing from both school officials and students, Zoey determinedly continues in the hopes of helping others persevere in living their authentic lives. Utah Premiere

Official Selection: 2017 BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival

Signature Move / USA (Director: Jennifer Reeder ) – A hilarious and heartfelt look at modern families and the complexities of love in its many forms. Utah Premiere

Cast: Fawzia Mirza, Shabana Azmi, Sari Sanchez, Audrey Francis, Charin Alvarez
Official Selection: 2017 SXSW Film Festival

Small Talk / Taiwan (Director: Hui-Chen Huang)

Taiwanese filmmaker Hui-chen Huang knows her mother is a lesbian, but just about nothing else about her. They have lived like strangers under one roof for decades, and almost never talk to each other. One day Hui-chen finally summons up the courage to sit her down and make her mother talk. But is she ready to hear what she has to say? Utah Premiere

Winner: Teddy Award for Best Documentary Film–2017 Berlin International Film Festival

Tamara / Venezuela/Uruguay/Peru (Director: Elia K. Schneider)

A successful lawyer with a wife and two kids finally comes to terms with his visceral desire to become a woman. He is determined to follow his heart, even though this will turn his whole world upside down and put his life at risk. So his trip to gender reassignment begins. Utah Premiere

Winner: Nueva Vision Award–2017 Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Untamed / Mexico/Denmark/France (Director: Amat Escalante)

A couple in a troubled marriage locate a meteorite, initiating an encounter with a mysterious creature. Their lives are turned upside down by the discovery of the creature, which is a source of both pleasure and destruction. Utah Premiere

WInner: Best Director–2016 Venice Film Festival

The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin / USA (Director: Jennifer M. Kroot)

Celebrates one of the world’s most beloved storytellers, following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay rights pioneer whose novels inspired millions to reclaim their lives. Utah Premiere

Audience Award Winner: Documentary Spotlight – 2017 SXSW Film Festival; Jury Award: Best Documentary – 2017 OUTSHINE Film Festival

A Very Sordid Wedding / USA (Director: Del Shores)

As a hilarious follow-up to Sordid Lives, this film explores the questions, bigotry and the fallout of what happens when gay marriage comes to communities and families that are not quite ready to accept it.Utah Premiere

Official Selection: 2017 FilmOut–San Diego LGBT Film Festival


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