A City Called Heaven
Sound: C+ Extras: D Film: C+
How hard is it for a gay black male in (or near) the south
in a small black community that is flooded with and immersed in Baptist
Christianity and deal with the isolation?
Hugh Thompson’s A City Called Heaven (1998) tries to address this
in a profound way, with a death that forces gay son and extremely religious
mother being forced to confront each other.
Reminiscent of the better films of the Black New Wave, the low budget,
quiet soundtrack and mixed acting would seem amateurish in most other cases if
we were seeing something we had not seen before.
Despite its many limits, this is a brave work that
rightfully asks for recognition of the individual, something the extreme Right
likes to label “humanism” as if people (especially anyone who is not a
Neo-Conservative, white, “God” loving, blind faith in government type) are
somehow a disease; animals who are disposable.
Philippe-Richard Marius’ screenplay is about thinking, not hating, but
the film ironically may spend too much time on religion. In this, A City Called Heaven is the
kind of Gay cinema many companies who usually deal with such films seem to have
missed. It is at least as competent and
intelligent as many other such films, which the audience for it should
The 1.33 X 1 full frame image shows its age in the
particular print, with some artifacts and debris here and there. Martin Bough’s color cinematography is
appropriately claustrophobic, as the film deals with the homophobic, resulting
in a density that helps the narrative and sense of place. The Dolby Digital 2.0 is simple stereo at
best, but is so quiet and subtle, it will not matter as much. There are no extras, and that is a shame,
because it would have been nice to hear from the filmmakers outside of this
- Nicholas Sheffo