Short Films: The Queen

On Friday, April 10th I viewed multiple short films consisting of Giovanni and the Water Ballet, The Queen, Last Day in the Sun, and For Floppy Ears Only.  At first it was easy to pick out my least favorite of the four, the only one that was stylistically atypical, The Queen. However after an extensive discussion with my peers I began to see the underlying beauty and genius of this short film and all the messages it conveyed in such a short amount of time.

The Queen was simplistic and understated. The whole short film was a close up of a young girl’s face as she underwent preparation for Carnival which is a culturally important celebration in Brazil. She was a pageant girl and had earned the title of The Queen of Chocolate for Carnival. She was doused in makeup and had her hair pulled tight and had to wear a nine-pound headdress covered with jewels. Her face was expressionless the majority of the film and the dialogue was her mother and stylist talking. At one point someone advises her to practice wearing heavy headdresses so her head becomes stronger and develops calluses. They mentioned seeing other girls with bleeding heads after Carnival who later developed scars that they are proud to bear.

Personally, the most shocking part of the film was when they were putting on the young girls’ headdress just minutes before Carnival. Her mother took zip ties and tightly secured the headdress to her daughter’s head in order to keep it stable. Her mother used a special hair spray that is specifically made to numb the scalp and offered her daughter a sleeping pill to help her sobbing child calm down. Through the young girl’s tears her mother consoles her and tells her how pretty she looks. The film ended as the girl lined up at the front of the parade and began walking down the empty street, half choking on suppressed sobs as her mother and others walking with her helped support her neck.

It wasn’t until during a discussion after the film that I realized the message The Queen was trying to convey. This film dealt with something most of us have experienced – a controlling parent forcing something upon their child that they wish they had excelled at. The mother was more excited that her daughter was to be The Queen of Chocolate, competing in pageants, and being in the Carnival. It was obvious by the forlorn look oh her face that her mother was making her miserable, forcing her to suffer through the pain she now associated with Carnival. This experience ruined this special celebration for the young girl as she not only despised her mother but the Carnival as well. The young girl’s face said it all.

One thought on “Short Films: The Queen

  1. Racing Dreams was by far my favorite documentary at full frame. Although other films I saw were perhaps more powerful or more poignant, watching Racing Dreams was a thoroughly heartwarming experience. The documentary featured three young race car drivers: Josh Hobson (12), Annabeth Barnes (11), and Brandon Warren (13). At the time, all three were participating in the National Go-Kart Championships.
    The film explores the social and economical aspects of the sport. Racing involves an inordinate amount time and money dedicated to the sport. One scene captures Mr. and Mrs. Hobson struggling to pay the bills after investing over one hundred thousand dollars in Josh’s race car. Brandon is eventually forced to end his racing career because his family can’t afford the expenses. One weekend, Josh and his father arrive at a race track at three in the morning, after an eleven hour car ride from Michigan. At one point, Annabeth comments that she often wishes she had the time to go to parties and “just be a kid.”
    As compelling as the narrative arc of the documentary is standing alone, the filming techniques are also noteworthy. First, I noticed that many of the scenes of the kids interacting were shot from far away, which leads me to believe the filmmakers thought they could get more authentic footage if the kids didn’t feel they were being watched. Secondly, at the beginning of each race, the featured racer’s car, and the kid himself would be the only object in color–the rest of the scene was black and white. This technique made it easy to focus in and otherwise chaotic shot.
    Both Josh and Brandon were present at the screening. However Racing Dreams was filmed in 2009–so it was jolting to see them today, and to find out that Brandon has a one year old daughter, Josh is at the University of Michigan, and Annabeth is still racing and still chasing her dream.

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