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Queens of the Qing Dynasty film image, director Ashley McKenzie

Queens of the Qing Dynasty

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Recovering from a suicide attempt in a Cape Breton hospital, Star (Sarah Walker), a neurodiverse teen, is drawn into the orbit of An (Ziyin Zheng), a genderqueer volunteer. Despite their disparate backgrounds (An has recently arrived from Shanghai), the pair operate on identical idiosyncratic frequencies, fortifying their bond through a flurry of text messages and unguarded declarations. After disclosing her aspiration of becoming a trophy wife to An, Star incants, “You’re sinning… making me evil.”

In reality, there’s nothing sinister afoot in Ashley McKenzie’s (Werewolf, 2016) extraordinary sophomore feature. Rather, it’s a disarmingly open-hearted, formally exhilarating ode to a fairy tale friendship. A heady mix of unvarnished-yet-eloquent dialogue, transportive electronic compositions by Yu Su and Cecile Believe, and visual flourishes that meld social media, animation, and VR, the film sees McKenzie adhering to her social realist principles while exploring a more expansive, sensorially rich brand of cinema. Unfolding in society’s margins, Queens of the Qing Dynasty burns as incandescently as its two stars.


 Q&A Oct 5 & Oct 7


Sarah Walker, Ziyin Zheng, Wendy Wishart, Jana Reddick, Yao Xue, Cherlena Brake

Country of Origin





In English, Mandarin, and Russian with English subtitles

Film Contact
Content Warning

Self Harm

122 min
Drama Experimental & Avant Garde LGBTQIA2S+ Romance Women Directors

Book Tickets

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Ashley McKenzie, Britt Kerr, Nelson MacDonald


Ashley McKenzie


Scott Moore


Ashley McKenzie, Scott Moore

Production Design

Michael Pierson

Original Music

Yu Su, Cecile Believe


Ashley McKenzie headshot, Queens of the Qing Dynasty director

Ashley McKenzie

Ashley McKenzie (she/they) is a filmmaker based in Unama’ki (Cape Breton Island). Her debut feature Werewolf (2016) won the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award from the Toronto Film Critics Association in 2017. Film Comment called Werewolf “an austere, marvelously focused debut feature,” while The New Yorker named it to their Best Movies of 2018 list. Ashley’s films have screened at the Berlinale, Toronto International Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival, and Sydney Film Festival, and have been curated by the Criterion Channel, MUBI, and Anthology Film Archives.

Filmography: Werewolf (2016)