It has boobs. It has guts. And no, it’s not a horror film.
The documentary Save Our Souls follows local burlesque troupe Slow Burn through their 2010-2011 season, and it shows a side of burlesque hidden behind the glamour and the costumes. Directed by Michael Sanchez and produced by Richard Barnes, Save Our Souls is a courageous film that looks at burlesque in an imperfect city along with the people who put their soul into this art.
Save Our Souls shows the history and methods behind this troupe, as well as why burlesque in New Orleans is unique. The viewer gets behind-the-scenes insight in to how the gang comes up with ideas for shows, how costumes are made, and how much effort each individual puts into each performance. But along with the show, though, the film also displays the person behind the performance—lifting the magic curtain, so to speak. Slow Burn members are shown riding their bikes, walking their dogs, and going to their day jobs.
While the film follows a burlesque troupe, it is not about burlesque—it’s about the people. Throughout the film each cast member of Slow Burn shares stories and secrets, some of which provoked a few tears. Nona Narcisse, Ruby Rage, and Ben Wisdom have each lost a parent; Bella Blue’s youngest child has Asperger’s syndrome; and stage manager Sebastian Tchoupitoulas Rey is transgender. Each person in the cast has a story to tell, and every person in the audience can relate to at least one person in this film.
Something many audience members can relate to is a love-hate relationship with New Orleans. The folks of Slow Burn are honest—they love this city, but they know it’s not perfect. Between the crime (Nona Narcisse was attacked while riding her bike home) and the corruption (Lady Lucerne was incarcerated in Orleans Parish Prison for two days), the cast acknowledges the city’s shortcomings. Some of them even risk pissing off a few locals by admitting that this city does not feel like home, but they admirably refuse to sugar-coat anything.
Style-wise, the film is entertaining and aesthetically pleasing. There are beautiful moments in the film when footage of a woman performing is shown as she is recounting a serious or tragic part of her life. Also, each time a dancer is introduced, the footage of her dancing is shown in the style of a silent movie. There is no time for boredom, and the viewer is constantly engaged.
Any viewer of this film will be entertained, enlightened, and humbled. It has its funny moments (some scripted, some not), and it maintains a sense of positivity despite the tragic personal histories. Save Our Souls shows an eclectic group of people making art and doing what they love. The people of Slow Burn are used to showing their most intimate parts on stage; in this film, they expose something far more revealing—their souls.