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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Gay > Religion > Politics > A City Called Heaven

A City Called Heaven


Picture: C     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 consider.


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 work.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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