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Damn These Heels Queer Film Festival starts Friday

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World Premiere Screenings of ‘The Letter’ and ‘True Mother’

A total of 50 films — 25 features and 25 shorts — are set to screen July 9–18 during Utah Film Center‘s 18th annual Damn These Heels Queer Film Festival. This year audiences have a variety of ways to experience the Festival through online streaming, in-theater screenings at Rose Wagner, an Opening Night drive-in at the Fairpark Fairgrounds, and an outdoor lawn-seating event at Liberty Park for Closing Weekend. Tickets are available now at

The longest-running queer film festival in the Mountain West will open this year with “My Name is Pauli Murray,” screening at a pop-up drive-in at the Utah State Fairpark.

Organizers say there are films for a wide swath of the LGBTQ community.

Ash Hoyle

“Damn These Heels is a celebration of queer art, queer stories, queer love, and an opportunity to see and be fully seen. I hope that in coming together around the films we have selected, our community can create some collective joy, questions, and conversation,” Ash Hoyle, director of programming, said, “I am so proud that this year’s program provides such a well-rounded look at the LGBTQIA+ spectrum from all angles. Themes of resilience, unearthing history, and boundary-pushing are at the forefront this year. There is truly something for everyone in this program.”

Two films are being presented as world premieres, three are North American premieres, and one is a “sneak preview.”

Feature films:

Ahead of the Curve
Directed by Jen Rainin, Co-Director Rivkah Beth Medow

AHEAD OF THE CURVE is the story of one of the most influential women in lesbian history you’ve never heard of and the impact her work continues to have today. Growing up, Franco Stevens never saw any representation of queer women—she didn’t even know it was possible for a woman to be gay. When she realized she was a lesbian, it changed the course of her life.

Directed by Matt Fifer

After a string of unsuccessful and awkward encounters with women, Ben goes “back on the dick.” CICADA follows Ben, a young bisexual man, as he comes out to the world and develops an intense relationship with Sam, a man of color struggling with deep wounds of his own. As the summer progresses and their intimacy grows, Ben’s past crawls to the surface.

The Conductor
Directed by Bernadette Wegenstein

Born in New York, Marin Alsop first saw the legendary Leonard Bernstein when she was nine years old. At that moment, she knew what she wanted to be in life: a conductor. Told that girls can’t do that, Marin struggled against enormous prejudices and institutional obstacles for decades to become one of the world’s most renowned classical music conductors.

Directed by Bennett Singer, Patrick Sammon

CURED tells the story of the activists who brought about a pivotal but little-known victory in the movement for LGBTQ equality: the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its manual of mental illnesses.

Directed by Jonathan Wysocki

In 1994, a closeted teen struggles to part ways with his 4 high school drama friends at their final slumber party before they leave for college.

Flee (Denmark/France/Sweden/Norway)
Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen

FLEE tells the story of Amin Nawabi as he grapples with a painful secret he has kept hidden for 20 years, one that threatens to derail the life he has built for himself and his soon-to-be husband. Recounted mostly through animation to director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, he tells the story of his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan. For the first time Closing Weekend film is part of a collaboration with Sundance Institute to offer free screenings to the community. The screening is outside at Liberty Park and reservations are required. TA collection of Utah-made short films will precede this feature film

Genderation (Germany)
Directed by Monika Treut

When director Monika Treut set out at the end of the 1990s to make a film about the emerging phenomenon of ‘trans’ (transgender, transsexuality), it was to San Francisco, the epicenter of the trans scene, that she headed. With her documentary, Gendernauts (1999), she created a cinematic tribute to all the fascinating artists she met during her journey through the land of the new genders. Treut portrayed gender-mixers and sexual cyborgs, who changed their bodies with new technologies and biochemistry and thereby questioned the very existence of ‘male’ and ‘female.’ The gendernauts traveled through the worlds of gender and sexuality like cosmonauts traveling through space or cybernauts traversing the world wide web. When asked, “Are you a man or a woman?” the gendernauts would reply, “Yes.”

If It Were Love (Si c’était de l’Amour) (France)
Directed by Patric Chiha

Fifteen young dancers of different origins and horizons are on tour with ‘Crowd,’ Gisèle Vienne’s epic dance piece exploring the 90’s rave scene. From theatre to theatre, the work mutates into strange, intimate relationships. Is the stage contaminating real life — or the opposite? A disturbing journey exploring our nights, our parties, our loves.

Instructions for Survival (Germany)
Directed by Yana Ugrekhelidze

Alexandre is a transgender person who has lived with his girlfriend, Marie, for more than seven years. Because of the mark “female” in his passport and his trans identity, Alexandre cannot find a job and must lead a secret life. The violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity bring the couple to decide to leave their homeland. To afford this exodus, Marie signs a contract to be a surrogate mother.

Ma Belle, My Beauty
Directed by Marion Hill

A surprise reunion in southern France reignites passions and jealousies between two women who were formerly polyamorous lovers.

Madalena (Brazil)
Directed by Madiano Marcheti

The body of Madalena, a trans woman, is lying in a field of soy. Though they don’t know each other, Luziane, Cristiano and Bianca start to create a bond, guided through Madalena’s spirit, hanging over the town. International Centerpiece Screening.

My Name Is Pauli Murray
Directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen

A look at the life and ideas of Pauli Murray, a non-binary Black lawyer, activist, and poet who influenced both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall. Opening Night film presented at the drive-in at the Utah State Fairpark. This screening will be preceded by a drag show.

No Ordinary Man
Directed by Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt

No Ordinary Man is an in-depth look at the life of musician and trans culture icon Billy Tipton. Complicated, beautiful and historically unrivaled, this groundbreaking film shows what is possible when a community collaborates to honor the legacy of an unlikely hero.

No Straight Lines
Directed by Vivian Kleiman

Five scrappy queer comic book artists journey from DIY work and isolation to the cover of Time Magazine and the international stage, offering a fascinating window into everything from the AIDS crisis and workplace discrimination to the search for love and a good haircut. Their work and personal stories are sure to make you laugh but also make you think about the challenges and triumphs encountered and overcome along the way.

North By Current
Directed by Angelo Madsen Minax

North By Current is a visual rumination on the understated relationships between mothers and children, truths and myths, losses and gains. After the inconclusive death of his young niece, filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax returns to his rural Michigan hometown, preparing to make a film about a broken criminal justice system. Instead, he pivots to excavate the depths of generational addiction, Christian fervor, and trans embodiment. Lyrically assembled images, decades of home movies, and ethereal narration form an idiosyncratic and poetic undertow that guide a viewer through lifetimes and relationships.

Potato Dreams of America
Directed by Wes Hurley

This is a very different kind of immigration story: Lena and her 9-year-old son, affectionately called Potato, use American films to escape the harsh reality of their native Vladivostok after the fall of the Soviet Union. Swept up by the fantasy of a better life, Lena decides to become a mail-order bride so she and Potato can go to the US. When they arrive in Seattle circa-1990 to live with Lena’s new husband, Potato and Lena both realize some things in America are even more different than they first appeared.

PS Burn This Letter Please
Directed by Michael Seligman, Jennifer Tiexiera

A box of letters, held in secret for nearly 60 years, ignites a 5-year exploration into a part of LGBT history that has never been told.

Raw! Uncut! Video!
Directed by Ryan A. White, Alex Clausen

A love story about fetish porn…RAW! UNCUT! VIDEO! chronicles the rise and fall of homegrown gay porn studio Palm Drive Video and explores how a devoted couple helped battle a devastating health crisis by promoting kinky sex.

Rebel Dykes (United Kingdom)
Directed by Harri Shanahan and Siân A. Williams

REBEL DYKES is a rabble-rousing documentary set in 1980s post-punk London. The unheard story of a community of dykes who met doing art, music, politics and sex, and how they went on to change their world.

Directed by Bruce La Bruce

Set in 1972 Canada, Saint-Narcisse follows Dominic, a handsome, narcissistic young man who discovers the existence of his twin brother, living in a remote monastery led by a depraved priest. Dominic sets out to save him and reunite once and for all. The two beautiful, identical brothers are soon embroiled in a strange web of sex, revenge, and redemption.

Sediments (Spain)
Directed by Adrián Silvestre

Six trans women travel to a small town in León where they will explore unusual landscapes, as well as the ins and outs of their own personalities. Looking for answers about what connects them as a group, they will learn to deal with their differences. Sneak Preview Screening

See You Then
Directed by Mari Walker

A decade after abruptly breaking up with Naomi, Kris invites her to dinner to catch up on their complicated lives, relationships, and Kris’ transition. Over the course of a one-night encounter, they engage in a series of increasingly intimate and vulnerable conversations before a shocking revelation is unveiled. SEE YOU THEN focuses on the universal truth that no matter how much you change, a part of you will always stay the same.

Shit & Champagne
Directed by D’Arcy Drollinger

After her fiancé, Rod, and her adopted half-step-sister, Brandy (the world-renowned calf model) are both brutally murdered, Champagne Horowitz Jones Dickerson White (a divorcée and exotic dancer from the wrong side of the tracks) uses “all the right moves” to single-handedly take on the largest sex, drug and back-to-school clothing ring in the country, Mall-Wart.

Sublet (Israel)
Directed by Eytan Fox

A New York Times travel writer comes to Tel Aviv after suffering a tragedy. The energy of the city and his relationship with a younger man brings him back to life.

We’re All Going To The World’s Fair
Directed by Jane Schoenbrun

Alone in her attic bedroom, teenager Casey becomes immersed in an online role-playing horror game, wherein she begins to document the changes that may or may not be happening to her.

Short films:

All Those Sensations in My Belly (Croatia)
Directed by Marko Djeska

While transitioning from male to female gender, Matia struggles with finding a genuine intimate relationship with a heterosexual man.

Babydyke (Denmark)
Directed by Tone Ottilie

A heartbroken teenager goes to a queer techno party to win back her first love.

The Beauty President
Directed by Whitney Skauge

“If a bad actor can be president, why not a good drag queen?” In 1992, Joan Jett Blakk made a historic bid for the White House as one of the first openly queer write-in candidates. Today, Terence Smith, the man behind the persona, reflects on his place in gay rights history at the height of the AIDS crisis.

Cynthia (Ireland)
Directed by Jack Hickey

A dinner party with old friends takes a shocking turn as wounds are exposed, revelations are made, and the past resurfaces. Over one tense evening, Cynthia learns that some things can never be unsaid. An emotionally bold and uplifting story about truth, love, and finding the strength to move on.

Directed by Stephanie Osuna-Hernandez

For Fran, Los Angeles is where dreams come true. In his mind, it is where he will be allowed to pursue his passion for makeup and fashion. As he saves enough money for the move, he documents his journey through YouTube. However, Fran learns that following one’s dream is a privilege not everyone has.

Directed by Shae Xu

An unspoken romance inevitably resurfaces when a high school music teacher meets an old colleague again and decides to perform together for the first time as piano duet partners after they’ve long since drifted apart from each other.

Egg Shells (Bulgaria)
Directed by Slava Doytcheva

On Easter day, when her girlfriend picks family over her, Nevena dyes two red eggs and sets on a journey to meet her own estranged father.

Directed by Aziz Zoromba

After being estranged from his family for his homosexuality, we observe a young Arab man over four seasons and from far away as he navigates his solitude – all the while attempting to reconnect with his mother.

Directed by James Kautz

Frankie, a non-binary trans person, crashes their ex-partner’s men-only 12 step meeting, determined to be heard… no matter the cost.

Heaven Reaches Down To Earth (South Africa)
Directed by Tebogo Malebogo

After Tau comes to a realization about their sexuality, it sets in motion a cascade of thoughts and emotions in Tumelo – nothing will ever be the same between them.

How To Raise a Black Boy
Directed by Justice Jamal Jones

An experimental fairytale dedicated to the modern black boy, in which four boys disappear one night, as many black boys do, and find themselves on a fantastical journey to break the curses of black boyhood.

In France Michelle Is a Man’s Name
Directed by Em Weinstein

Michael, a young trans man, returns home to the rural American West after years of estrangement from his parents. In France, Michelle is a Man’s Name explores trans identity, masculinity, and the prices we’re willing to pay for acceptance.

The Letter
Directed by Meredith Morran

“The Letter” is a film about letters: individual letters, epistolary letters, letters addressed to friends, to fathers, to neighbors, to lovers, and to passengers on that airplane, the one currently flying above your head. World Premiere

Marlon Brando (Netherlands)
Directed by Vincent Tilanus

In the last weeks of being high school students, Cas and Naomi, both out of the closet, prefer to spend their days together. As “brother and sister” of other parents, they experience security and love that they cannot find elsewhere. But when their plans seem to drive them apart, their relationship will be put at risk, and the affectionate Cas must dare to be alone.

The Night Train (Sweden)
Directed by Jerry Carlsson

Oskar is on the night train, heading home after an interview in Stockholm. With a long night ahead of him, he makes eye contact with Ahmad.

Of Hearts and Castles (USA / Spain)
Directed by Ruben Navarro

Marcus has recently broken up with his boyfriend. One night out, he meets Angel, an attractive and attentive man, who will make Marcus live an emotional experience that will spark a breakthrough, and set him on the right path to get over the breakup.

Directed by Sasha Argirov

An unexpected connection during an anonymous encounter pushes two socially anxious loners to risk vulnerability and find the intimacy they both yearn for. North American Premiere.

Directed by Van B. Nguyen

Follows a Vietnamese mother who prepares for Thanksgiving and faces a situation she never expected when her son brings home a man.

True Mother (Israel)
Directed by Rotem Gabay

Maya won’t give up on her daughter despite losing child custody to her ex-wife. World Premiere.

Talk Soon
Directed by Joey Massa

During the course of an overnight visit, Sasha and Rae grapple to return to an emotional place that’s just beyond reach. North American Premiere.

Torch Song (Australia)
Directed by Stephen Lance

An XXY adolescent is rejected by his father at a suburban burning man ceremony. North American Premiere.

Directed by Daniel Antebi

Fragments of a lost relationship come alive after a glance.

Unliveable (Brazil)
Directed by Matheus Farias and Enock Carvalho

Marilene searches for her daughter Roberta, a trans woman who went missing.

A Voicemail to Try and Make You Feel Better
Directed by Rhea Bozzacchi

Weeks after a brutal breakup, Sam receives a voicemail from his ex-boyfriend, Aaron, reading a poem he has written to him. 

While We Stayed Home (Israel)
Directed by Gil Vesely

Boy meets Girl meets Covid-19.

Tickets are available now at Additional off-screen conversations and workshop information will be shared in late June.

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