Thursday, June 17, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: Queen of Glory

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Queen of Glory
Directed by Nana Mensah
US Narrative Competition – Screening Information

The bond a child has with their parent isn’t consistent across all relationships. Those raised with kindness may in turn distribute that to the world, though not everyone responds well to nurturing and love. But there are also dynamics that aren’t necessarily negative or volatile but do come with their degree of baggage, and it’s often not until something serious happens and creates a breakdown of normal activities that the true strength and endurance of a connection is tested. In some cases, that may only begin to be explored after a parent’s death.

Sarah (Nana Mensah) is a scientist and doctoral student at Columbia University who is set on leaving New York City to move to Ohio with her married boyfriend, who is constantly telling her that he’s ready to separate from his wife. Her plans are disrupted when her mother dies, and she is the one who needs to plan the funeral as her father, who lives in Ghana, arrives to pay his respects and leave all the work to her. She also learns that she has inherited the Christian bookstore in the Bronx that her mother owned, which introduces her to Pitt (Meeko), the ex-con who reveres her mother and keeps up the store.

This film depicts Sarah as an assimilated American woman who hasn’t spent much time in the Ghanaian culture that meant a great deal to her mother and whose traditions dictate what the funeral must look like. She receives considerable input and instruction from members of her extended family and the Ghanaian-American community, and also interacts with a Russian friend and her family whose customs and bedside manner look very different. Sarah isn’t any one thing, and the circumstances in which she finds herself force to her to have many identities at once, none of which seem to go together and find a common support system, certainly not from her hapless and noncommittal boyfriend.

Mensah makes her debut behind the camera as writer and director of her first feature, immersing herself in this character’s world and conveying her experience in an accessible and relatable manner. While there are elements of her culture that are unique and distinct, and on full display in a positive and meaningful way during this film, there is also a universality to what she goes through, which is the reconciliation of heritage and secularism for someone who doesn’t feel as if she’s rebelled against her upbringing but also has chosen to engage with at her own comfort. It’s a film that touches on familial relationships and individuality, weaving an engaging narrative with a rich, dynamic character as its center.


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