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With Queen of Glory, Nana Mensah Tells Her Own Kind of Immigrant Story

Magazine, Entertainment, Vogue

Ten years of observation, experimentation, and experience gathered from the theater, short films, television, and web series prepared actress and writer Nana Mensah for her directorial debut, Queen of Glory.

The film, which won Mensah the best new narrative director prize at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, recalls both Soul Food’s exploration of death as a path to family healing and reunification, and Joy Luck Club’s unpacking of complicated mother-daughter relationships within first generation American families. Yet it also maintains a light-heartedness that challenges the long-suffering immigrant tropes frequently recycled in Hollywood. Queen of Glory is set within a multicultural world, but its characters’ everyday struggles are not rooted in those identities.

Sarah Obeng (Mensah) is on the brink of transition. She is a Columbia University Ph.D. candidate juggling teaching duties, a departmental affair, and pending relocation when she learns of her mother’s passing. As she returns to the Bronx to settle her mother’s affairs, she is forced to confront family issues that she’s long avoided. From reconnecting with her estranged father, Godwin (Oberon K.A. Adjepong), who has reluctantly flown back from Ghana, to dealing with Queen of Glory, the Christian bookstore her mother left in her care, Sarah is overwhelmed by obligation and expectations.

As Sarah prepares for two funerals—an American wake and a traditional Ghanaian ceremony—she must navigate the unforgiving pressures of extended family members and a disintegrating romantic relationship. Yet in time, Queen of Glory becomes Sarah’s refuge thanks to the loyalty, insight, and support of the store’s devoted manager, Pitt (Meeko). A formerly incarcerated family man who is also an artisan baker, Pitt is a neighborhood pillar—and a friend when she needs it most. Her bond with him, along with other connections inherited from her mother, become the emotional safety nets she needs to grieve.

With Queen of Glory now in theaters, Vogue sat down with Mensah to discuss the film, the textures of life in New York, and the burden of West African exceptionalism.

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