Nana Mensah’s directorial debut is full of potential and shines a light on the immigrant experience.
Nashville Film Festival 2021 is finally here! I am so excited to be able to write tons of reviews for you all and tell you all about the films I am watching on my Twitter and Letterboxd. As you can see, I started my coverage a little early with my review of the music documentary, The Fable of a Song. Before the festival started I looked through the guide and pinned down which films would interest me to write a review on because I doubt I can write one for every single film that premieres here plus I need to share this space with Brad and Luis. Queen of Glory caught my attention instantly because of its beautiful poster, but as I read the synopsis I was intrigued. Let me tell you that this movie did not disappoint at all.
Queen of Glory focuses on Sarah, played by Nana Mensah (The King of Staten Island, Bonding, 13 Reasons Why) a Ghanaian American woman who is planning to move to Ohio with her secret lover. Life seems to be moving quickly and all of a sudden Sarah’s life is struck with a family tragedy. This tragedy leads to Sarah exploring her options and what she really wants out of her life. Along with having to confront her relationship with her estranged father. Through its runtime we are dissecting this character study and a portrayal of the immigrant experience.
Nana Mensah who serves as our writer, director, and main actress crafts a beautiful film about loss, identity, and the immigrant experience. Right off the bat, this film is beautifully crafted with its cinematography by Cybel Martin. There are some very pleasing lighting setups and the color palette is enticingly rich. The score and production design are impeccable as it really creates the atmosphere of Sarah’s culture. The film also includes some wonderful performances from actors like Meeko who portrays Pitt. Meeko and Mensah’s chemistry is wonderful and every time they both share the screen it is delightful. The story feels a bit rushed and leaves the viewer wanting a bit more time with some of our characters especially Sarah’s father. This could have used another extra 30 minutes to flesh out some more and I would not have mind at all. The strength of this film are there and its commentary and message about the immigrant experience joined by a struggle to know what Sarah wants make this film worth it. Nana Mensah’s directing career will be filled with better work as she continues and I am very excited for what is to come from her.
Queen of Glory will have its premiere at the Nashville Film Festival on October 4th, to purchase tickets to attend the event visit here.
Fernando Frías directs an incredible film full of emotional depth and nuance that exceeds all expectations.
The last time I wrote to you all I was stuck inside a home because the world outside was falling apart, and not much has changed since. I am still very active on the podcast and starting season two of The Cinema Condition soon. This year in film has been filled with a lot of movies but a lot of them were not available to the public, so my year in film has been slow for the most part. Throughout the year I have watched some great films like Bacurau (2020), I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020), Sound of Metal (2020), and of course Tenet (2020). I was convinced for the most part that nothing would top my then favorite film of the year, Bacurau (2020). I was incredibly wrong.
I’m No Longer Here (2020) or Ya no estoy aquí (2020) looks at the life of Ulises a 17 year old boy who is part of a gang named “Los Terkos” (“The Stubborn”) as he is exiled from his community after a misunderstanding. Ulises then goes to New York City as he lives in Queens and begins to navigate his new life as a foreigner in a new world. This journey is met with discrimination, self doubt, and an identity crisis. It all blends to create my favorite film of the year.
It is so hard to not approach these films as a Latino but especially a Latino who is a son of immigrants. It is also so hard to not approach this film as someone who very much understands the eternal struggle of a Latino who at times does not really understand their identity. At one point I thought I understood the concept of Latinidad but since then I have lost much grasp of it. Ulises is like a lot of the people I grew up around, we were into different music, from some of the worst neighborhoods you did not want to step in, wore different clothes, did our hair differently from what was expected from us, and because of that we were easy targets to be bullied. When we were not bullied we were used as symbols and for others to use for their own gain. We did not fit a mold and we were never supposed to fit that mold.
I did not have the life that Ulises had completely but I knew a lot of people in México who were living there especially in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon in 2010-2013. They were too exiled from their land but instead of street gangs it was their government who pleaded them to come over to the United States because of the government’s incompetency to handle the situation at hand. Life became harder and the land of opportunity they thought they would be introduced to was just not there for them. Once again they were discriminated in this other part of the world for being them.
What Fernando Frías does with all these aspects is create a beautiful but heartbreaking story that is often too real for others. The cinematography is fluid and beautiful especially with its naturalistic lighting. The Kolombiano music included works so well to create the atmosphere and ambiance of what makes Ulises unique and a free spirit. The sense of community is felt throughout the whole film. The dread of being seen as weird and “the other” is heartbreaking. The pain of coming back to your land but seeing that the landscape of its people has been changed forever and it is not the land you were exiled from. Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño gives us a truly nuanced and beautiful performance as Ulises. The non linear aspect of the film works well with the structure especially if you think about it as Ulises remembering his life back then while in Queens. Everything works and it all creates such a beauty that speaks on so many levels.
Ya no estoy aquí (2020) is the official selection from México for the Best International Film category at next year’s Oscars. Watch Ya no estoy aquí (2020) on Netflix.