The Queen is a gritty and dazzling short presented by Argentinean director Manuel Abramovic. I’ve called this one gritty and dazzling because it is full of sequins, incredible glittering costumes but also suffering. This film is a short 15-minute vignette of Memi’s life. Memi is only 11 years old and she is going to be the queen of the carnival.
The interesting cinematography used here is quite clever. The lens only ever shows Memi; we never see her mother’s face, nor any friends. Memi rarely speaks. In fact, the only time Memi does speak up is when she is in pain. And as the short progresses we find Memi in pain more and more. Her beautiful, baby face is mesmerizing as it is so often sad or distracted. She rarely smiles as one might imagine an 11 year old should do.
It is a stark contrast to the smiling, glowing child we see in the very first frames. For the briefest of moments the camera pans over Memi in her official Carnival Queen sash. The darkness against the sparkling lights and confetti is like a horror waiting to happen.
The decision to show only Memi in this very minute narrative of her life brings up all kinds of intriguing questions: how long has Memi been doing this? Does she want to do it? Does Memi do anything else with her life? What happened after the carnival? Was Memi okay? She is beautiful but that is all we will know. The Queen is almost like an artistic and terrifying version of “Toddlers and Tiaras”.
Though there are no particularly violent scenes or obscene images, nor is there any swearing or vulgarity, the film is very unsettling. It is one of those experiences you walk away from not being able to pinpoint exactly what was wrong, while still feeling that sinking sensation in your gut that something was definitely – very – wrong. In this case, the real moment of pain and unsettling intrigue is not hearing Memi’s tears as she wails, but watching no one around her do anything about it. That aforementioned, consistent focus on Memi remains unbroken no matter how much she pleads to be noticed.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Queen screens with School of Babel at the Sydney Film Festival. Its final screening is this Saturday, 14th June. Tickets and details can be found HERE.