Fawzia Mirza’s stylish feature debut mashes up the textures of Indian cinema and a Canadian coming-of-age picture, tracing key moments in the lives of a mother and daughter born three decades apart.
The Queen of My Dreams
In 1999, the sudden death of her father Hassan (Hamza Haq) sends queer Muslim grad student Azra (Amrit Kaur) flying back to her ancestral home in Pakistan, where her stern mother Mariam (Nimra Bucha) demands she play the role of the perfect grieving daughter. But through flashbacks to Mariam's own life in Karachi 30 years before, we see the connections uniting mother and daughter, starting with their shared love of the Bollywood star Sharmila Tagore.
Fawzia Mirza's bright, energetic first feature, which grew out of their 2012 short film of the same name, explores the chasm between individual desires and cultural expectations, fluidly slipping between the textures of Indian cinema and the concerns of a Canadian coming-of-age picture. Mirza builds a convincing sense of time and place, showcasing a great dual performance from Kaur (The Sex Lives of College Girls) as both Azra and the younger Mariam and allowing a charismatic supporting turn from Haq (Transplant) as both versions of Hassan. As the older Mariam, veteran actor Bucha, whom you may recognize from Ms. Marvel, harmonizes with Kaur, showing us hints of the woman Mariam used to be within the person she’s become.
Sort Of cinematographer Matt Irwin gives the 1969 sequences the vivid primary colours and lighting of the era's Bollywood movies while keeping the 1999 material more subdued and naturalistic, and editor Simone Smith (a Canadian Screen Award winner for I Like Movies, TIFF ’22) shuffles us confidently between the two time frames. Azra might feel lost, but this movie knows exactly where it’s going.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes