The Jean Genie: Why Jean Genet Matters. In Plymouth (And Lots of Other Places). Right Now.
Plymouth Arts Centre, Plymouth
Sunday 29 June 2014

Heaven is a Place: premiere
Hi. I’m Kayla Parker, the director of Heaven is a Place. I’m absolutely delighted that you can all be here for the premiere of our dance film, which is being shown for the first time in public.

Before we start, I’d like to say a few words about the film, which runs for 16 and a half minutes. You’ll have the opportunity to say a few words after the film if you want to, and you can ask me any questions you may have about the film.

First, thanks to Vana Pefani and the Odysseia company, Plymouth University, and the EU Cultural Programme for the opportunity to create the film.

For me, Plymouth is a place full of possibilities. The film is about this place and the people whose stories and histories weave through the city’s borders with the sea, those who live here, those who leave and return, and those passing through en route to other places.

Jean Genet was influenced by the films he saw from boyhood. And, although in his life Genet only made one film himself, Un Chant d’Amour, he used cinematic strategies in his writing such parallel plotlines, close-ups of gestures, and the use of the flashbacks and temporal disjunction. In making the film, lines selected from Genet’s poetry became the focus around which our ideas evolved.

Heaven is a Place embraces Genet’s notion of vagabondage, bodies drifting through place and time. We were also influenced by themes from Genet such as the lonely youth full of longing; also, how the costume one wears allows us to shift from one position to another, leading to adventure with others, to perform ourselves in a continuing process of change; and juxtaposition of the transient physicality of the human body with the materiality of natural phenomena.

The film’s principal locations are the limestone cliffs of Plymouth’s waterfront area, with its brutal beauty of decommissioned military fortifications and crumbling recreational structures, such as the iconic Lion’s Den; and the marginalised spaces of Bretonside bus station, and Devil’s Point. The bodies of the performers are set against the wide open skies of Plymouth Sound and seaward views of what could be.

This film has been made collaboratively, and, for me, people from Plymouth’s LGBT community are the heart of this collaboration. Heaven is a Place is made with you. Working with you and hearing about your experiences moved me greatly. Thank you for your incredible generosity and openness. Your stories, told through the movements of your bodies and the bodies of the emergent dancers and performers on the screen, will, I hope, touch other people, other audiences as our film makes its own way in the world from its first screening today.

As we began the process of making the film, our key words were “sexy and gorgeous”. Working with Paul Roberts the dubbing mixer on the final soundtrack for the film last week, he described the film as “brilliant and mesmeric.”

Well, I think we’ve made a poetic film that is all of those things: sexy and gorgeous, brilliant and mesmeric. I hope you agree.

Image: Adam Whiting and Erik Koky at the Lion’s Den, Plymouth Hoe foreshore (film still, Stuart Moore)