The San Luis Obispo International Film Festival has given SLO Review the opportunity to review some of the narrative and documentary feature films on its 2024 program schedule. Follow the links to purchase tickets to see these notable films for yourself.

Love and Resistance Between Mothers and Daughters, Everywhere

The Queen of My Dreams may be Fawzia Mirza’s first full-length directorial debut, but it is clearly not her first foray into pondering the complexities of the love and resistance between mothers and their daughters.

This film, set largely in Pakistan, shows an understanding of families everywhere—beginning with the first line: “I used to worship my mother … I tried to be like my mother but wasn’t.”

Such is the misperception of a grown child looking at her parent, her first love, her real-life model of everything done right. The misperception is that we are not alike—daughters being much more like our mothers than we know, and they being much more like us.

Azra, played by Amrit Kaur, is living in Canada when she gets the call that her beloved father has died. She is pulled to be by her mother’s side, a step into her past. When she arrives, her mother Mariam, played by Nimra Bucha, gives Azra’s western dress the once-over and tells her daughter to change. Azra hears the word change, an apparent core message repeated, and laughs bitterly.

Change. Be something else.

And then we get to know her mother, who was in her youth playful and irreverent. She grows into a woman who falls deeply in love with a man of which her parents would have never approved if they’d known the two were planning to leave Pakistan for Canada, their only daughter moving thousands of miles from home.

What changed her mother into the frustrated person we meet in The Queen of My Dreams is unclear, but she has lost the verve she once possessed.

Do we allow a metamorphosis not just in ourselves but in those who came before us? Do we forgive?”

Kaur beautifully portrays a young woman eye-rollingly in judgment of her mother’s fixations on societal norms, but with good reason. As a pubescent girl discovering her sexuality, her mother walks into a room as Azra and a female friend are about to kiss. It changes everything. Azra knows the moment she began feeling unloved by her mother.

What Azra doesn’t know is that her mother’s move to Canada at the start of her marriage was her own failure to be a good daughter. She also disappointed her parents by daring to step into a life of her own choosing.

Azra’s heart softens as she rewatches a favorite movie she and her mother once watched together. And again, when she finds old video footage of her mother singing and dancing, her heart continues to warm.

And finally, Azra sits with her vulnerable, aging grandmother who mistakes Azra for Mariam. And as she delicately cares for her grandmother, her grandmother asks this young woman she believes is her daughter for forgiveness.

This film is a beating heart, a sort of coming-of-age story. In our current time when we tend to draw sharp lines between the generations, pointing fingers of blame, The Queen of My Dreams erases those lines and tears down fences.

We’ve all stood at crossroads where we’re faced with whether to change who we are in search of acceptance or to decide what’s acceptable to us and break new ground. Do we allow a metamorphosis not just in ourselves but in those who came before us? Do we forgive?

Make time, call in sick, buy the tickets. The Queen of My Dreams is not to be missed.

:: Paula McCambridge

The West Coast Premiere of The Queen of My Dreams (run time 97 minutes) at the SLO International Film Festival is sponsored by Connie Booton.