Becoming a Queen is a very straightforward documentary that zeroes in on one person, their career, and their primary achievement. The film follows this standard structure well enough, issuing the occasional bit of history along the way, but I wish director Chris Strikes followed a less conventional format to this vibrant subject matter.
The doc’s primary focus is on Joella Crichton, a native to Toronto who has garnered fame through the city’s Caribbean Carnival (also known as Caribana). The festival is a global tradition, with Toronto’s festivities serving as an event that earns lots of attention for its cultural connections and artistry. Crichton is a returning champion of the festival’s Queen of Carnival title. With a streak of seven consecutive wins on top of two additional wins, Becoming a Queen chronicles her goal to round up her victories with a tenth which she claims will be her final year in the competition. Audiences receive an intimate albeit nimbly-paced recount of her journey, leading to her final showcase as she anticipates results the same evening. Sparse details about Carnival are littered throughout the doc, including how it affects Joella and fellow contributors.
Becoming a Queen isn’t amateurish, but it does play like a student project. Even though this is Strikes’ feature-length debut as a director, they have plenty of experience with music videos and short-form docs. I’m willing to chalk the basic nature of Becoming a Queen as the filmmaker trying to stay out of the way and not ruffle feathers. I really liked an on-camera question he asked Joella about cheating accusations – it makes Crichton take a moment to reflect. And, the conclusion is tense with performance technicalities being magnified. But otherwise, the movie just lets the camera roll with the occasional factoid being dropped to break up the pace.
This documentary is fine but, next time, I want to see a more confrontational approach from Strikes. Becoming a Queen, while nice and informative to an extent, feels like it’s holding back.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie