Nana Mensah is a Ghanaian-American writer, director, producer, and actress who not only stars in Queen of Glory, but also wrote, produced, and directed it. Most recently, Mensah was a staff writer on Season 2 of Random Acts of Flyness at HBO and is currently staff writing on Amazon’s The Power. She also co-wrote and co-starred in Season 2 of Netflix’s Bonding. Previous film credits include: IFC’s Farewell Amor (which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival), Like Father, The King of Staten Island, and the upcoming A24 film After Yang. Previous TV credits include: Madame Secretary, Evil, Little America, New Amsterdam and 13 Reasons Why.
QUEEN OF GLORY
By Nana Mensah
Sarah Obeng, the academically brilliant child of Ghanaian immigrants, decides to quit her Ivy League PhD programme to follow her married lover to Ohio. But when Sarah’s mother dies suddenly, she bequeaths her daughter a Christian bookstore in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx where Sarah was raised.
Playing Sarah is debut writer-director Nana Mensah – giving us a story that she herself hadn’t seen. Though not autobiographical – Mensah, doesn’t have a PhD, and her parents are still very much alive – the film does take place in the actual Christian bookstore owned by them.
From the opening scene, we know we’re in safe hands with Mensah. She trusts and respects us enough to tell us Sarah’s story of selfhood in which cultures cross and intertwine, and where joy can be found even in dark places – without over-explaining, steering or manipulating us.
What she gives us in Queen of Glory is an emotional truth that resonates long after the end credits roll. A smart, watertight, script – full of pathos, love, humour and humility, light-handed directing, and pitch perfect performances from a stellar ensemble cast that include her real life aunties from Ghana, Oberon K.A. Adjepong (estranged father), her mother’s Christian bookstore employee (Pitt), Meeko Gattuso, her unworthy married boyfriend/university colleague (Lyle), Adam Leon, and Mensah herself. Mensah has said that had someone “better” come along who wanted to play the part of Sarah, she would have given it to them. We can’t imagine anyone playing it more beautifully than she.
Yes, the story may be cut from formulaic cloth – a follow-up on the classic immigrant’s tale, but in the hands of Mensah, it feels fresh – which may, in part, be because we rarely get to see US immigrant/identity stories.
We need more films like Queen of Glory. We need more filmmakers like Nana Mensah.
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