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Queen Tut is a queer immigration revolutionary tale directed by Egyptian-Canadian filmmaker Reem Morsi.lauren newman/Handout

Queen Tut

Directed by Reem Morsi

Written by Abdul Malik, Bryan Mark and Kaveh Mohebbi

Starring Ryan Ali, Alexandra Billings and Dani Jazzar

Classification N/A; 91 minutes

Opens in Toronto and Vancouver Feb. 23

A case of good intentions marred by slipshod execution, the new Canadian drama Queen Tut lands with a kind of disheartening thud. Here is a diverse story, largely fresh in the terrain that it explores and the performers it elevates, that almost instantly shoos away any audience not already personally invested in its success. It is far too harsh to say that the film gives ever-embattled indie Canadian cinema a bad name – but the film isn’t the best confidence booster, either.

The problems are evident from the very start, when Egyptian immigrant Nabil (Ryan Ali) reunites with his widowed father Iskander (Dani Jazzar) in Toronto, and they exchange a handful of exposition-laden pleasantries. “Once I get zoning approval, it will be my legacy … our legacy now!” Iskander tells his son as he shows off the new residential development he’s working on. It might seem like a minor blip, but it’s just the first pang of the screenplay’s tin ear for dialogue.

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There is no question that Queen Tut falls considerably short of the basics.lauren newman/Handout

As Nabil balances mourning his mother with pleasing his father, he literally wanders into the Church Street Village’s drag scene, where he befriends Malibu (Alexandra Billings), a firecracker of an advocate who is trying to save the local drag bar from being torn down by redevelopers including, you guessed it, Iskander.

Will Nabil be able to embrace his true self while maintaining a relationship with his father? Will Malibu be able to leave the trauma-laden past behind and embrace a new kind of future for the Village? It doesn’t matter whether the answers are obvious or not, it is the way that Queen Tut arrives at them: awkwardly, and with too little verve or wit.

It is easy to sympathize with director Reem Morsi. It is clear the budget was incredibly low, and only some of her performers (most notably Billings, who is operating on another level here) were attuned to the particular challenge. But to perhaps unfairly contrast it with Sophie Dupuis’s feature Solo from just a few months ago – another family melodrama set against the backdrop of a major Canadian city’s drag scene – and there is no question that Queen Tut falls considerably short of the basics. There is passion, but no rhythm.

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