In a remote small town, a neuro-divergent teen forms an unlikely rapport with an international student from Shanghai volunteering at the hospital where she is a patient. Between the two, a bond forms, cemented by their candid conversations, nightly text messages, and exchange of their deepest secrets. The boundaries of their friendship quickly expand into something special, altering their inner alchemy. QUEENS OF THE QING DYNASTY is a story that breaches the absurd and poetic, the platonic and the romantic. Both intimate and intense, it explores the intrinsic beauty and innate flaws of what it is to be human, the profundity of connection, and the vortex of mental illness. The electronic music score blurs between cinema foley and sound design to create a feeling of an alternate plane. The film is an affectionate ode to women, asexuals, and neuro-diverse and gender queer individuals who exist beyond the norms of society. QUEENS OF THE QING DYNASTY is produced by Britt Kirr, Nelson MacDonald, and McKenzie, with music by Cecile Believe and Yu Su and cinematography by Scott Moore. Director and writer Ashley McKenzie (Werewolf) joins us for a conversation on the casting of film stars Sarah Walker and Ziyin Zheng, working with them to get their pitch perfect performances, and finding her own creative space outside the cinematic circles, of Toronto and Montreal, in Nova Scotia working with local artist.
About the filmmaker – Ashley McKenzie (she/they) is a filmmaker based in Unama’ki–Cape Breton Island, Canada. She writes and directs films in collaboration with people in her community, compelled by the stories near to her that may otherwise be overlooked. Casting locals and shooting on-location brings vitality to her work and visibility to the people and textures concealed in a remote place. Her debut feature, Werewolf, won the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award from the Toronto Film Critics Association in 2017, the most generously endowed film prize in Canada. It was theatrically released by Factory 25 in the US and Les Alchimistes in Europe. Film Comment called Werewolf “an austere, marvelously focused debut feature,” while The New Yorker named it on their Best Movies of 2018 list. Ashley’s films have screened at the Berlinale, New York Film Festival, and Toronto International Film Festival, as well as been curated by the Criterion Channel, MUBI, and Anthology Film Archives. Queens of the Qing Dynasty, her latest feature, premiered in the Encounters Competition of the 2022 Berlinale.
“Daring. Destabilizing in the best, mind expanding way”. – Nicolas Rapold, Artforum
“A rare, cathartic, and humane commodity. McKenzie has given us a movie worth talking about.” – Adam Nayman, Cinema-Scope
“Hopeful and deeply emotional. Feels like a fairytale for these isolating times.” – Jourdain Searles, IndieWire
“Ashley McKenzie is staking out territory as a showstopping neo-realist.” – Scout Tafoya, RogerEbert.com
“Impressive. Showcases McKenzie’s flair for complex characters hoping to break free from their ennui.” – Caitlin Quinlan, Variety