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Fawzia Mirza is Paving the Way for Canadian Indies 

The director’s theatrical debut The Queen of my Dreams is unprecedented in both style and subject matter.

by Maggie McPhee

Fawzia Mirza came to film out of necessity. It was 2012 and she needed to reconcile her identities. Could she be queer and Muslim and love Bollywood romance all at the same time? Without seeing herself represented on screen, she set out for answers by putting them onto one. What began as an art installation turned into her first short film, The Queen of my Dreams. “Making that film really saved my life,” she tells RANGE. “And sharing it helped me see that it not only could have an impact on me, but it was having an impact on other people.”

Fourteen years, dozens of shorts, and one feature later, Mirza has reinterpreted that initial experience into her first film to receive theatrical distribution. Though she’s dazzled film festival audiences time and again, this marks her debut to the wider public. “Accessibility is a problem when we’re thinking about storytelling,” she says. “You can make a beautiful story, but who has access to get to see it?” 

That Cineplex Pictures picked up The Queen Of My Dreams bodes well for the future of Canadian film. “I hope that this will be the beginning of a journey for many indie films after ours and a really exciting new path for communities that might not otherwise get to see the film.” In a little over a decade, Mirza has contributed to a tidal shift in representation, beginning with the absence of queer, Asian, Muslim stories to their presence in suburbs across the country.  

The Queen of my Dreams spans 30 years, three generations of mothers and daughters, and three locations — 1999 Toronto, 1989 Nova Scotia, and 1960s Pakistan. The film’s epic scope houses a proportionate level of cinematic splendour, blending comedy, drama, romance and Bollywood fantasy. “I’m not one thing so I didn’t want this movie to be just one thing. Queerness to me is not one thing, it is embracing all of the beautiful people and pieces and things and cultures and communities,” Mirza explains. “It was really intentional to not think of that as a problem and think of that as an opportunity: how can we bring all of that to one movie?” 

Amrit Kaur (Sex Lives of College Girls) threads this vibrant tapestry together. Her protagonist Azra, a queer Muslim grad student circa 1999, travels to Pakistan after the sudden death of her father (Hamza Haq, Transplant) where she contends with her fractured relationship with her mother Mariam (Nimra Bucha, Polite Society). Her journey takes her across space and time. When we land in Pakistan it’s 1960 and the height of Karachi’s golden era. Kaur, inspired by the South Asian cinematic device of “doubling,” now plays a young Mariam, and charts the milestones in her mother’s life that led to the present day. 

Whereas successful Canadian films typically lean into bizarre, dark, or small scale stories, The Queen of my Dreams achieves an expansive narrative and big budget glossiness. The kinetic editing, rich technicolour palette, and propulsive score infuse the film with life. Mirza attributes her success to a team of craftspeople and artists working together in a relentless pursuit of perfection. “Making a movie is so layered,” she says. “It’s like a cake, you really need all the layers to be great.” 


Azra (played by Amrit Kaur) singing in her room. From The Queen Of My Dreams (2024).


Mirza threw the typical muted blues and greys out with the rest of the Canadian formula. “We can tell a story of sadness and grief and of hard times and isolated Nova Scotia without telling it through desaturated colour. We all know that movie. I don’t need to tell it to you in that way again,” she says. “And, you know, death is sad and grief is awful. But grief happens when the sun is shining, too.” 

The Queen of my Dreams is as funny as it is frenetic, as polished as it is profound. The director told her story her way, and she hopes she inspires other young filmmakers to follow suit. “Identity evolves, so Canadian film must continue to evolve,” she says. “We as filmmakers can continue to push that evolution because Canadian film is me and you and every filmmaker telling their story. What that looks like is going to be big and robust and specific and vast and expansive and innovative and something we’ve never heard before because it’s you telling it.” 

As an artist and a leader, Mirza is helping open new doors. “Filmmaking has given me everything,” she says. And she’s returning the favour in kind. 


The Queen Of My Dreams opens in theatres across Canada Friday, March 22