Saturday, June 11th, 2022

Queerguru’s José Mayorga reviews ‘Becoming A Queen’ ….. of the Carnival




The year is 2018, and the film tells the real-life story of Joella Crichton, an actress, a York University graduate, and a contestant for thirteen years at the Caribana Festival that takes place during the summer in Toronto, Canada, where she has been reigning as Queen of the Bands for nine years, seven times in a row.  Joella is the queen of queens and, as she says, sometimes feels unwelcome for winning so many times.

We get to know Lou-Ann Crichton and Mischka Crichton, Joella´s mother and sister, and Kenney Coombs, creative director and costume designer of Carnival Nationz, an experienced organization that promotes events for the Caribbean community on which the sisters win big.  The Crichtons and Coombs have roots in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Joella is a force of nature and Caribana is a way to be connected to family and also her cultural heritage. 

Joella expresses that in the Caribbean tradition, carnival provides openness to be exactly who one is and to creatively express oneself; through it, generations of women strong and powerful embrace who they are, regardless of their size.

Carnival is also a time for artifice since elaborated costumes and masquerades are required for the event whose origins can be traced to ancient Egypt as a pagan festivity at the beginning of Spring. Europeans made and appropriated, for instance, the Carnival of Venice,  and brought the gaiety to the New World.  Eventually, in the islands, acts of protests against the European oppressors occurred, also demands for independence and emancipation, after which carnival became an expression of freedom.

Toronto´s Caribbean carnival originally begun as Caribana in 1967, takes place on the nearest weekend to Emancipation Day (in Canada is held on August 1st.) and commemorates the date in 1834 when the British Empire´s´Slavery Abolition Act came into effect.    

The Caribana is like the Olympics of the Caribbean culture, a competitive event that every year has winners as King and Queen on the individual competition representing a specific band, the costume goes with the theme of the band, the best costume and performance of the night gets the honors.  Participants work hard for months and fight to win. There are also the female individual and male individual categories, although the film shows nothing of the male competition. 

Interesting to note that colors in costumes refer to different aspects of life, much more than arts and crafts, feathers, and glitter, there is history involved, lots of work, and endless nights to produce each of the elaborated and massive attires that are shown on stage. 

At showtime, the costume is the outfit of the character chosen to portray.  All one needs is attitude and a great costume, for example, Joella  as The Divine Empress, Her Majesty of Reef or Dream Bird .. 

Canadian director Chris Strikes 90m documentary inquiries into a deeply rooted manifestation of the Caribbean culture that celebrates liberty, and which we learn about through the Crichton family.  

BECOMING A QUEEN is available on digital June 14 in the U.S and June 19 in Canada on most major platforms


Review by José Mayorga , Guatemala, Central America  lawyer and notary public, visual artist, and editor 
of El Azar Cultural, raised as a Catholic, lives and works in Guatemala City. Cinema lover, curious about the 
possibilities life brings and eager to live the experience.

Posted by queerguru  at  14:57

Genres:  documentary, international

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