Fans of the bleak, beloved Werewolf can finally stop drumming their fingers and checking their watches: Cape Breton writer-director Ashley McKenzie's second feature, Queens of the Qing Dynasty, is one step closer to a screen near them as it makes its North American debut at next month's Toronto International Film Festival.
A story about the bond between a hospitalized teen and the student from Shanghai who's observing her, Queens sees McKenzie return to using non-actors (a move that set her debut film Werewolf apart). Queens is described as "an offbeat ode to neurodiversity and genderqueer individuals who refuse to conform." The flick had its international debut earlier this year at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Ashley McKenzie's story, itself, could be a movie: The writer-director made her decidedly DIY debut film back in 2016, casting locals
in a part of the province that rarely sees movie cameras and funding the effort (in part) on her personal credit card. That the resulting Werewolf ended up being made at all (the tax credit in Nova Scotia felt inaccessible to McKenzie, she told The Coast at the time) has the tinge of miraculous to it. The fact that her first feature went on to clean up at TIFF that year—while capturing the attention of The New Yorkerand the prestigious Criterion Channel—both proves her talent and furthers the point.
"It will get too complicated if I start thinking about what other people wanna see. How do you even make artwork, if that's on your mind?" McKenzie told The Coast back in 2016, explaining her singular vision.
Queens of the Qing Dynasty shows at TIFF as part of the Wavelengths Program in early September. Full screening details will be released with the fest's official program launch on August 23. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer below:
Morgan is the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she writes about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She’s been with The Coast since 2016.
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