A Cinematic Hail Mary: An online film festival and virtual art house movie screenings to save the day 

Just as I was reaching the bottom of my Netflix/Amazon Prime/Hulu barrel, there it was like a gift from above: not one but TWO sources of brand new cinematic content, from a pair of organizations based right here in THE BLOCKS. The Utah Film Center’s 2020 Damn These Heels Queer Film Festival has gone virtual and screens online July 10 to 19. Or, until movie theaters reopen (which, sigh, is looking like 2021), you can screen art house films anytime via the Salt Lake Film Society’s SLFS@home project.  

Damn These Heels

This beloved annual festival, now in its 17th year, explores LGBTQ issues, ideas and art through showcasing dramatic and documentary films from around the world. Twenty-six films were selected as part of this year’s Damn These Heels program, all of which are available to stream anytime during the event’s 10-day run with the exception of Holy Trinity, available on July 18 only. This event also includes Q&A sessions, discussions, table readings (a preview of an in-the-works film) and workshops. DJ Poltergeist gets the party started with a FREE virtual dance party on Friday, July 10, 8 to 10 p.m. (No, heels are not required, but I love the idea of getting spiffed up to cut a rug in my living room!). And, while social distancing is a must, the Damn These Heels’ drive-in screening on Saturday, July 11 at the Utah State Fairpark is a go. Pack a picnic, drive to the north side and watch The Queen from the comfort (and safety) of your car seat. Showtime is 8 p.m. 

Individual tickets to screenings and events as part of Damn These Heels begin at $10. But the best deal is to buy a Festival Pass, starting at $75, which includes, at a minimum, access to all films, panel discussions and special events. And though pass pricing for this year’s virtual festival is similar to last year’s, one pass can provide everyone in a household access to enjoy films together without the need to purchase individual tickets and passes. 


The Salt Lake Film Society is in the midst of a brave new experiment they are calling SLFS@Home, But Not Alone, an effort intended to allow the organization to take care of its patrons and donors, retain staff and “maintain a cheerful outlook” during the Covid-19 temporary closures of the Broadway Centre Cinemas and Tower Theatre. Here’s how it works: though the SLFS website, you can watch films on-demand, i.e. anytime within 48 hours of purchase. Once you purchase a film, you’ll be privy to “showtimes” or times when others who’ve also purchased the film can watch at the same time. A chat function is attached to the streaming service during each film’s showtimes, allowing watchers to have a conversation—and make the screening feel a bit more special than an Amazon download. Similar to the brick-and-mortar screenings, the SLFS@home lineup is regularly updated. Some of the films playing now include Shirley (starring Elizabeth Moss), The Last Tree and Traveling While Black (free screening). Those opening this Friday, July 10, include the documentary No Small Matter and the funny and heartwarming Never Too Late.  

“See” you at the movies!   


Written by Melissa Fields