The Queen Of Dreaming
The Queen Of My Dreams is the remarkable new film by Canadian director Fawzia Mirza. The story of two generations of one family, both enacting their own personal rebellion within the strictures of Pakistani culture, you can read my five star review here. I had the opportunity to speak to Mirza, to talk about the development of this wonderful film and discuss its wider context. Here's what she said...
Why did you decide to revisit your 2012 short film as a feature film? And how did the film’s narrative evolve from this broadening of its scope?
It was a circuitous journey. But a story I had to tell. The feature film began as a spark of an idea over 10 years ago. But I made that short before I even knew I was a filmmaker. I was actually trying to make an art installation piece about whether I could be queer and also still be Muslim and love Bollywood romance; I was grappling with identity.
A friend, Ryan Logan, helped me make it a movie. It was the success of that short — both on the festival circuit and in healing my heart — that made me think there was more story to tell. Now at the time, I was predominantly a theatre actor. So my dream was a one person show. With the help of the Chicago-based company I worked with at the time, Catharsis Productions, I developed a play — a one person show I performed at cities around the country including three cities in Pakistan. The play was personal. And seeing its reach, that’s when I began thinking about writing a feature screenplay. Which I had never done before.
I made another movie in the interim, ended up working with different collaborators along the way, but eventually, through my own journey of self-discovery, I knew that I needed to tell this story, because the screenplay changed as I changed. I wanted the 1969 portion to be a major component of the movie and so I worked around maintaining that part of the story.
To what extent is the film autobiographical? How much of your own life has made it onto the screen?
The lead character, Azra, is queer and Muslim and an artist, is from Pakistan and Nova Scotia and her father suddenly dies. But after that, it’s inspired by collective memory, history and fantasy.
The film feels like a love letter to Pakistan. How do you feel about the country’s past, present and its future?
The country has a complicated history, and is rooted in an even more expansive and ancient story of the Indian sub-continent. My parents were born in present-day India. I’d love to see a future where we live by our own borders, not those defined for us by our colonisers.
How much do you feel life has changed for young gay Muslims in Canada since the 1990s?
There were some great queer Muslim organisers and activists who stood up and out for us. But it was hard to find each other in pockets and corners until the internet and social media allowed us to directly connect, support, love each other and also step out and speak up. This is why the work, the art, being at the centre of and telling our own story matters. And when you support our work, by buying a ticket, reviewing on Letterboxd, sharing our stories, telling friends or just being a good ally, you are also sending the message that we matter.
The Queen Of My Dreams premieres today (7th October 2023) at the BFI London Film Festival, released by LevelK.