Miss Juneteenth

Miss Juneteenth is about a mother and daughter, as they strive to make a better life. The mother, Turquoise, is a former Miss Juneteenth, who was granted a full university scholarship with the title, but through circumstances almost certainly to do with her drunk mother and waster boyfriend, was forced to drop out, and now struggles to make ends meet. She is determined her daughter will not face the same fate, and does everything she can to make sure her daughter uses this opportunity to fulfil her true potential.

Miss Juneteenth is not just a pageant. It commemorates the freeing of the last slaves, 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and draws a line straight from them to these girls, who use their scholarships to go on to be lawyers and doctors, surpassing the dreams of their ancestors. It is a way to pass on history to upcoming generations and inspire others. It celebrates the best of what the community is, and provides role models.

The daughter, Kai, isn’t sure if she gets it. Although she loves her mother, knows and respects the sacrifices she is making for her future, Kai doesn’t see how winning this pageant is gonna change her life, when it so obviously hasn’t benefitted her mother.

The film follows mostly practical concerns, and is told through the mundane scraping together of tips at a bar, trying to drum up shifts doing make-up at the morticians, and cutting back on everything to save every last dime. The basic financial obstacles to the pageant – entry fees and a dress – go from barely achievable to impossible as the film progresses. Mostly due to the shitty part-time dad, who talks a excellent game, but, while Turquoise is out there working two jobs with no electricity in her house, he has taken the wean to the pub with him to gamble over a game of dominoes. He even manages to get himself arrested on a bullshit charge, and she has to spend a chunk of Kai’s money bailing him out. Classic wasting bastard shit.

From the myriad barriers and knockbacks Turquoise faces, you’d think this is a film about the inescapabilty of class. Turquoise was an unusual winner, coming from the wrong side of town in a thrift store dress, who won through her sheer determination. And even when she had access to the benefit of a full scholarship, there were just too many burdens for her to thrive. And she ended up exactly where she was always meant to end up.

But that’s not it. And the emotional crescendo of the movie is when Kai finally gets it. The preparation and journey of the Miss Juneteenth pageant taught her discipline, perseverance, holding your head high, and speaking in your own voice. It taught her hard work, and insisting on your own worth in front of the crowd. It taught her the importance of always holding yourself up as a benefit to your community, someone you can be proud of. And these things it taught her, it taught her mother. Which is why when they still have nothing, her mother worked, and sacrificed, and put her child first, carrying herself with integrity and dignity. That’s how Juneteenth benefited her mother.

And that is what she will take away from Juneteenth, win or lose.

Drew a tear to my een.

Rocks

Went to see this coz I gret at the trailer. A story of sisterhood in the face of hardship. Rocks is a teenage lassie who is left to look after her young brother after their mum takes a nervous breakdown and disappears. Rocks spends the movie trying to handle this on her own, and stay invisible, so the social don’t come and separate her and her brother.

The movie is also about leaning on what you got, no one does this alone. Family is not just something you are born into, it’s something you make. And Rocks has to learn is that she has a family – they’re all around her.

The warm circle of laughter that is the group of girls stands in stark contrast to the hostility of the rest of the world, which just relentlessly attacks, picks at, and grinds down these young women of colour. Everyone is so quick to call the police, call the social, call security. Everything about them is a problem, their clothes, their voices, their independence, is seen as aggressive, defiant, and a threat.

And although the plot is obviously mapped out, I thought maybe the dialogue was largely unscripted, because it is so naturalistic. The girls talk all over each other, lots of times you can’t hear anything but the babble of the group. It makes you feel like you’re really watching someone’s life, rather than watching a film. Like you’re being let into something, rather than told a story.

Drag Kids

A documentary about young drag queens and how there’s not really a venue for them to perform. They kinda have to exist on social media.

Drag shows are traditionally held in clubs and bars, where you can’t get in if you’re underage. Pride is a great venue but drag can often be lumped together with other performers with an overtly sexual aspect, such as leather or bondage. So there’s not a lot of age-appropriate venues to take young drag queens to perform.

Which is strange when you think about it, because what could more popular among kids of every generation than getting dressed up and pretending to be your favourite pop star? There should be as many drag and vogue classes as ballet and tap. A call to local dance teachers – it’s an untapped market!

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The Witch

The Witch was excellent. Paced more like a story of family breakdown than a stereotypical horror, it evokes a great sense of time and place. Would recommend if you want to remember what it was like when you were little and scared of witches.

Also an excellent film to make me thankful I didn’t have much of religious upbringing. You really do wonder what it’s for.

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