‘Heaven is a Place’ is a collaborative dance film, the result of research undertaken by Parker, Mock and Way in partnership with Pride in Plymouth, Plymouth's LGBT advocacy organisation. The research was part of a larger EU-funded cultural project entitled ‘Heaven on Earth?’, whose overarching purpose was to creatively interrogate the contemporary legacy and relevance of writer, film-maker and activist, Jean Genet, in waterfront cities.
Focusing on movement-based performance for and through film, ‘Heaven is a Place’ exemplifies how triangulation of thinking bodies, sexual subjectivities and emplacement can enable and celebrate the acknowledgement, consolidation and reimagination of a community that has been erased in dominant, heteronormative accounts of its city. Insights embodied in the film were further contextualised and disseminated in a chapter in ‘Community Filmmaking: Diversity, Practice and Places’.
‘Heaven is a Place’ applied film-making research to examine and make explicit identity, memory and place through an entwined process of film and choreography, based on site-responsive physical improvisation and the development of scenarios and movement scores that reflect the personal memories and queer histories of specific locations.
Researchers adopted Canadian geographer Edward Relph’s research methodology, ‘a phenomenology of place’, to inform the approach to working in ‘queer spaces’ identified by the community. Each location revealed itself over a series of visits, improvisations, the filming and subsequent ‘revisiting’ during postproduction. A Genet study day in Plymouth and a symposium in Athens strengthened critical examination and scholarship of the film’s premise during the production process.
The film purposefully premiered in Plymouth, with subsequent screenings during Plymouth’s first Pride parade and the Brighton Pride community exhibition, and at numerous international film festivals. Further significance of the research is evident through its citation in Kerrigan and Verdon’s paper (2019).