Nana Mensah wrote, directed, and stars in the 2021 film, Queen of Glory. The film had its world premiere as part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s “US Narrative Competition.” Mensah plays Sarah Obeng, the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants who is a doctoral student at Columbia University. From the film’s start, Sarah displays both her continued connection to her Ghanaian heritage and her American-ness. She drops off supplies to be sent to her estranged father back in Ghana, visits her opinionated aunties, and later, meets up with her married boyfriend, who heads her department at Columbia.
Sarah plans to leave New York for Ohio, and move in with her boyfriend where he will begin a new job and they can (presumably) start fresh after he separates from his family. She is scheduled to leave in a week. Things take a detour when she receives sudden news that her mother has died from an aneurysm. Sarah heads home to the Bronx to take care of her mother’s funeral arrangements, first, the “white person funeral” that is more like a wake, followed by the more traditional Ghanaian funeral expected by the elders who loved her mother. Her father arrives from Ghana and is a reminder of the more traditional expectations and gender roles of her upbringing. Sarah, however, is not immediately ready to comply. Sarah is in shock upon learning that she has inherited both her mother’s home and the Christian bookstore she owned, run by a former convict (played by the excellent Meeko Gattuso). Before Sarah can move on with her life, she first has to help wrap up her mother’s. Her plan is to sell both.
While the film is indeed very funny at times, I would characterize it more as a dramedy. The death of Sarah’s mother becomes the catalyst for her to reexamine her Ghanaian roots and the struggle of being Ghanaian-American. She is often caught between two worlds. Sarah is a scientist and an academic; her relatives are often asking when she will be married and start having children. Sarah continues to bristle at the cultural expectations of her role as a young woman while struggling to honor and stay connected to the mother she loved.
In interviews, Mensah was quoted as:
I wanted to tell this story because so many depictions I’ve come across of the African immigrant or first-generation American experience are rife with trauma. That was not my experience nor the experience of my family— there was struggle, sure, but also a lot of love, community, and laughter. So I decided to showcase this in a dark comedy about a middle-class, high-achieving Bronx native (by way of Ghana, West Africa), who is grappling with her origins and figuring out what she wants from life, as we all are. (Deadline)
Other breakout performances in the film include her mother’s Russian next-door neighbors: a very pregnant mother (played by Anya Migdal) and her family, who is the first to ask Sarah directly: “But, what are you going to do out in Ohio?” Then there’s Pitt (Meeko Gattuso) who presents initially as a tough tattoo-covered ex-con, but secretly has a passion for baking. He reaffirms that Sarah does not have to be like her beloved mom, she only has to be herself. I won’t give away more from the plot of this indie because I want you to see it. Nana Mensah is wonderful as Sarah, but also in her writing and directorial debut. She really is a triple threat. Magnolia Pictures International has acquired sales rights to the film, so I hope it will be released in 2021 for more to see. Check it out when you can.
Besides watching TV and movies, Diana likes plants, the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school dropout. You can follow her on Instagram @dldimuro and Twitter @DianaDiMuro