Sara Obeng, played by American actress Nana Mensah, is in bed eating take-out food wearing only her lover’s button-up shirt when she receives a phone call. After a few back and forth with the person on the other end of the line, she gets out of bed and crosses the threshold of the bedroom door, like a zombie. Her lover, Lyle, is in the kitchen looking for hot sauce. He sees Sara, who is stoic: “My mother is dead,” she says. Some time later, Lyle consoles Sara and asks her if she’s okay as he says worriedly, “You haven’t even cried yet.” Sara responds, “There’s just too much to do.”
Nana Mensah, told the Bronx Times during an interview in London this week: ‘I didn’t mourn a relative, but one of the things that often came up when I spoke to people who had it fact is that you are touched by this trauma and then immediately afterwards you become like a secretary.
“Because there’s so much going on, you throw yourself into event planning, and it doesn’t leave much time to grieve. And so, I think I kind of wanted to establish this disconnect between what you’re doing and what actually happened.
Mensah is not only the writer and lead actress of “Queen of Glory,” a dark comedy that premiered this weekend in New York, it also marks her directorial debut.
Shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, Mensah moved to New York to pursue her dream of acting. And in 2009, she landed a role in the movie “The Movie You Haven’t Seen” and since then she has had a steady film and television career. She starred alongside Sandra Oh in the currently streaming Netflix comedy-drama series, “The Chair,” and is also working on new projects with Netflix and HBO Max.
In “Queen of Glory”, Mensah’s character Sara is tasked with taking over a bookstore her mother owned before her sudden death, while making arrangements for her funeral and returning to her childhood home in the Bronx.
The Christian bookstore, King of Glory, located at 2823 White Plains Road in the Allerton neighborhood of the Bronx, serves as the backdrop for “Queen of Glory”, from which the film takes its namesake.
The bookstore has been an Allerton staple for decades and is a stronghold for community and diversity. Owned by Mensah’s real aunt and uncle, they sold it a few months ago and retired to Ghana.
“They’ve owned it for so long – I can’t really remember a time when they didn’t own the bookstore,” Mensah said.
The bookstore is a symbol of Sara’s search for identity as she analyzes her family, morals, and life choices while managing the day-to-day operations of a small business.
The film is rich in human emotion and uses imagery of the Bronx, a pleasant respite from the constant shots of the Manhattan skyline that is usually featured in New York-based films.
And instead of a sea of white faces that is the norm for American films, Mensah presents a realistic depiction of the Bronx and New York by focusing on a diverse neighborhood in the borough and featuring a Ghanaian family – a reflection of Mensah’s own background.
It tells the story of immigrants, the working class, their entrepreneurial spirit and their children who strive for big dreams as they navigate the daily buzz and heartbreak of human experience. .
“I didn’t see myself reflected. So I kind of started writing something,” Mensah says of the film’s diverse cast.
And while the standalone film centers on the death of Sara’s mother, it’s not all tragic.
Like when Sara, skinny as she is, refuses to step on a scale so her aunt can weigh her luggage. Or when Lyle tells Sara to breathe as she comes to terms with the reality of her mother’s death while completely unmoved. Sara stares into his eyes and says, “I’m breathing, Lyle. I am breathing.
“Queen of Glory” won “Best New Narrative Director” at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, “Best Feature” at the San Diego International Film Festival, and several other accolades and awards. The film made its public premiere Friday at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where it will air all weekend and Mensah will be on hand for a Q&A with the audience after the screenings.
It will also screen at the Angelika Film Center on Sunday, July 17, where Mensah will also be present.
Contact ET Rodriguez at [email protected]. For more coverage follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes