I suspect this year was the first time most people in the UK, especially those of us who are white, had heard of Juneteenth. However, the events surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests and the idiocy of the American president made the date front page news. Juneteenth is celebrated on 19 June to commemorate the end of slavery in Texas and is today acknowledged in almost all states of America. Channing Godfrey Peoples’ new film, Miss Juneteenth, centres on an event to mark the date.
Turquoise (Nicole Beharie) is a single mother who works two jobs just to make ends meet. Living in Fort Worth, she obsesses over her teen daughter, Kai (Alexis Chikaeze), winning the Miss Juneteenth beauty pageant. As a former ‘queen’, she was unable to fully benefit from the prize of a free scholarship due to giving birth and the uselessness of the father (Kendrick Sampson). She is determined to give her girl a better life. However, the teenager is less than enthusiastic.
Miss Juneteenth is a relationship drama about a mother who ignores her own problems by living vicariously through her daughter. Turquoise’s life has been full of disappointments, but instead of trying to move on she channels all her energies into giving Kai the chance she wasn’t able to take. Beharie impresses as the lead but Miss Juneteenth sometimes feels a little undercooked and slightly overwrought. However, whilst there’s nothing particularly new here it’s refreshing to have a different perspective in this entertaining and well-made film.
Miss Juneteenth is released in cinemas and on digital by Vertigo Films on 25 September.