By Erin Aitchison
This month, Reel to Real Cinema returned with Queen of Glory (dir. By Nana Mensah), in recognition of International Women’s Day. This feature-length film; written, directed, and starring Mensah, follows Sarah Obeng, a cancer-curing PhD student and brilliant daughter of Ghanian immigrants who is trying to navigate life after her mother’s sudden death. Mensah manages to explore themes of maternal/paternal relationships, heritage, grief and acceptance all in a neat 79 minutes – no mean feat for her directorial debut. Being an F-Rated film, (meaning it’s created by and significantly features women), Queen of Glory is perfect viewing for this year’s IWD.
Sarah Obeng is preparing to move to Ohio with her already-married lover (Adam Leon), when she receives a phone call that her mother has died following an aneurysm. Sarah is the sole inheritor of her mother’s estate, and the new owner of her Christian bookstore ‘King of Glory’ in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx.
Sarah is left to organise both a wake and a Ghanian funeral, decide the fate of the bookstore, wait on her dad (Oberon K.A. Adjepong) who is visiting from Ghana and placate her aunties who despite her scientific success keep telling her to lose weight and have some babies. During her endless tasks Sarah develops friendships with the lone bookstore employee, tattoo clad ex-convict and talented baker Pitt (Meeko Gattuso), and the multi-generational Russian-American family who live next door.
The film opens with close-ups of vibrant, rich textiles accompanied by the sound of West-African drums. Archive footage from Ghana is interspersed throughout the film, representing Sarah’s ongoing conversation with her heritage and her journey to celebrating it. The intermittent archive videos show both an insight to Ghanian culture and the repetitive cycle of the human experience as the videos echo what is happening in Sarah’s life.
Rich with these references to heritage and a powerful overarching conversation with grief, Queen of Glory also finds itself punctuated with pockets of humour. Memorable moments of laughter were the effects of Pitt’s pot-brownies, Sarah answering the door to a flat-viewer in a risqué outfit intended for her boyfriend, and the chaos of her neighbour going in to labour as three generations of people rush to find the blasted car keys.
At the second funeral for Sarah’s mother, we revisit the same drumming sequence which opens the film. From this we gain an appreciation of Sarah’s journey and the many women (and men!) who have influenced it. Sarah adorns her natural hair and a vibrant funeral dress, marking the inevitable end to her journey as she dances and finally weeps over the loss of her mother.
Voices of aunties, neighbours, customers and mothers guide Mensah’s character through this story with a feeling of familiarity and genuine warmth. Like the bright West-African fabrics shown in the title sequence of the film, Queen of Glory feels like it is carefully woven together by the voices of women.
Queen of Glory is currently available to watch via Amazon Prime and can be rented/bought online from various streaming services.
Erin is our Marketing Assistant at The Stove but is no stranger to watching and talking about film. Erin graduated with an English and Film Studies degree in 2022, and is delighted to share her thoughts on the films shown at our monthly Reel to Real screenings.
You can find out more about Reel to Real Cinema here.