Becoming A Queen Image

Becoming A Queen

By Alan Ng | June 14, 2022

With each documentary, my world opens up just a little bit more. From director Chris Strikes and writer Sonia Godding, Becoming A Queen brings audiences into the world of Carnival, notably the highly competitive King and Queen of Caribbean Carnival competition.

Becoming A Queen takes us to Toronto, Ontario, where veteran Carnival Queen Joella Crichton is preparing for her last competition and hoping to win for the tenth time and her eighth consecutive title. Massively colorful and striking is how I’d describe this Carnival pageant. The pageant consists of each competitor dressed in an immaculate glittered costume trailed by an enormous “tail” behind them that complements their outfit. The vast tail — dozens of meters high and wide — dwarf the hopeful queen. She then dances (more celebration) while she struggles to move the tail behind her in rhythm.

Because of the stress and pressure of competing each year, Joella decides that this will be her final year, making her the perfect subject. One of her team members is her mother, Lou-Ann. She was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and was a school teacher by trade. But early on, Lou-Ann dove deep into the world of Carnal vulture and became a master costume designer. Then there’s Joella’s sister, Mischka, who, along with Joella, would run through the costume warehouse and immerse themselves in the spectacle of Carnival. Of course, it was inevitable that the sisters would one day compete, but it was clear that Joella had a passion for being queen. Rounding out the team is veteran costume designer Kenney Coombs. He is the leading designer and builder of Joella’s costumes, leaving mother Lou-Ann to smooth out the rough edges and at tiny bits of flair to elevate Coombs’ design.

“…preparing for her last competition and hoping to win for the tenth time and her eighth consecutive title.”

But Becoming A Queen is not just about the competition. It also looks at the culture behind Carnival. I’ve always associated Carnival with Brazil and New Orleans, but its historical significance comes from the Caribbean islands. Strikes’ documentary is a brief lesson in the history, culture, and pride immigrants from the region feel.

If I lived in Toronto (particularly during winter), I’d long to return to the tropical climate of St. Vincents. Talking of which, the film also speaks to issues of keeping the Caribbean culture intact, no matter where one is in the world and the financial frustrations of keeping the competition afloat. Building a costume is not cheap, and the only ones to earn any money are the winners. For many, the cost of competing is prohibitive, and as fewer and fewer men and women compete. With the lack of any real sponsorship, Carnival is in danger of disappearing.

Joella also speaks about the pressure to retire. It’s not that she necessarily wants to retire, but in the end, this is a competition. Because Joella has taken the top spot for the past seven years, the Carnival community suspects that she’s possibly bribing judges. The more she wins (on her own merit), the more she feels alienated from her community.

Strikes does a masterful job telling not only Joella Crichton’s story but also the story of Carnival. Rarely is Becoming A Queen ever dull, as he moves the story along, keeping it engaging at every turn, which is vital for documentary subjects that are unfamiliar to audiences. He captures how glorious these pageants are and builds the proper suspense as Joella goes for her final win… the results will surprise you. Watch the film, and your world will open in exciting and beautiful ways.

Becoming A Queen (2022)

Directed: Chris Strikes

Written: Sonia Godding

Starring: Joella Crichton, Lou-Ann Crichton, Mischka Crichton, Kenney Coombs, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

Becoming A Queen Image

"…exciting and beautiful..."

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