The Queen of My Dreams’ Review: A look at Changing Times in Pakistan

by Imtiaz Popat

Fawzia Mirza’s debut film, is a satirical comedy about Azra, a queer Pakistani Canadian woman (‘Sex Lives of College Girls’ star Amrit Kaur) struggles with her cultural identity and sexuality in the backdrop of changing times in Pakistan.

It’s 1999 in Toronto and the young woman doing an MFA in acting and living with her girlfriend (Kya Mosey). The film flashes back to 1969 Karachi when her mother Mariam (Ninra Bucha) and her father Hassan (Hamza Haq of Transplant fame) first met. The film becomes a backdrop the story as Azra grows up in Canada watching on VHS video tapes in Canada.

The film is a satire on Bollywood love stories in which queens of dreams sing and dance with their lovers. But those dreams are just dreams. This film deals with real relationships between lovers and family.

When Azra’s father Hassan dies of a heart attack during a trip to Pakistan, his death forces Azra and her brother (Ali A. Kazmi) visit with family reconcile their relationship with their mother and revisit the past.

Pakistan has changed a lot since the 60’s before the Islamization, when Mariam and Hassan met and their not so Bollywood romance. Mariam has much more liberal views in those days. She became more religious when Hassan had his first heart attack, she prayed to Allah that she would become a good Muslim and pray 5 times a day if Hassan recovers from his heart attack.

There are flash backs to Azra’s childhood in Nova Scotia in 1989 when the younger Azra is played by Ayana Manji was starting to discover her sexuality. When Mariam sees Azra trying to kiss another girl, Mariam shuns her trying to keep her promise to Allah to be a good Muslim.

Azra and her mother shared a rebellious streak while growing up. Perhaps this is why their bond is, initially, so strong. During the years in Nova Scotia, we witness the layers of their intimacy. Young Azra looks at her mother with equal parts awe and tenderness. When Mariam starts a Tupperware sales business, hosting her white Canadian neighbors for tea and curry, she enlists Azra’s help to sell the plastic containers. What young Azra doesn’t see, though, is that Mariam is still recovering from disappointing her own mother, who feels betrayed that her only daughter moved away to Canada.

Mirza has weaved a very nostalgic story of Canadian settlement immigrant dealing with generation and culture gap. The acting is whimsical and fun yet poignant. Fitting for a satirical comedy. The Cinematography is very creative giving good pace to the story. After success at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film is now in theatres.