“This is what queer cinema needs to be – homegrown, authentic, brutally honest” – Seattle Gay Scene
A model queer activist, poet and community advocate, Jesus (Maximillian Davis) prides himself in his work with the Seattle LGBT community. At the same time, Jesus is having unprotected sex and cheating on his long-time partner (Samonte Cruz). Jesus’s world implodes when he discovers that he is HIV positive, forcing him to confront his innermost fears, his relationship with his ex-boyfriend, and a future living with HIV. Faced with the unknown, Jesus is pulled from the brink of self-destruction by Sister Alysa Trailer (Brian Peters), a drag nun who leads him down a path of self-discovery.
‘heart breaks open’ is a feature film about queer life, public health and community accountability. It was written as a four page outline and transformed to a feature-length project through a collaborative filmmaking process. Actors used improvisational acting to create dialogue and action. Documentary filmmakers captured performances using cinema verité techniques. Seattle locations and their staff were used to create an undeniable meditative realism.
In a nuanced and subtle way, ‘heart breaks open’ comments on the notion of a ‘second coming’ of the Christian Jesus Christ. The film deviates from the traditional 3-act story structure, commonly used in fiction film, and follows the path of the Christian ‘Stations of the Cross’. Instead of a cross, HIV is our Jesus’s burden to bear. Instead of the daughters of Jerusalem, Jesus is met by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, “an order of 21st Century [drag] nuns dedicated to the promulgation of universal joy and the expiation of stigmatic guilt.”
‘heart breaks open’ strives to provoke. Who would Jesus be if he were with us today? What would be his cross to bear? How would we crucify him? Would he crucify himself?
‘heart breaks open’ was fiscally sponsored by Three Dollar Bill Cinema and was produced by Dual Power Productions. We’ve also partnered with Gay City Health Project, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, and the Seattle chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence — The Abbey of Saint Joan.
Winner: Best Film – 2011 Red Wasp Film Festival
Nomination: Grand Jury Prize – 2011 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Director: Billie Rain
Producer: Basil Shadid
Editor: John Boucher
Assistant Director: Alix Kolar
Cinematography: Basil Shadid, James Longley, Alex Walsh
Sound Engineers: Matt Sheldon, Dennis Schweitzer, Eric Goetz, Chad Findley
Talent: Maximillian Davis, Brian Peters, Samonte Cruz
Composer: Eric Goetz
Post Audio: Brendan Hogan
Writers: Basil Shadid, billie rain, Maximillion Davis, Brian Peters, Samonte Cruz, Qwo-Li Driskill