Victoria Film Fest Review: ‘Queen of the Andes’ explores big ideas with a micro-budget

Space travel is in our future. Of course, we will get to other planets one day, but how we get there and who we send will be an ongoing project. What, though, if it weren’t a choice for us as a society or the people we send?

Pilar (Bhreagh MacNeil) is an up and coming scientist. Her work genetically engineering algae has made her somewhat famous, at least in academic circles. She has a clean bill of health and no family history of disease, and the result of all this is that she is selected for the mission to colonize Mars. It’s a tremendous honour, but it’s also mandatory; this isn’t a volunteer mission; it’s a draft. It’s not a short stint, either; it’s a forty-year commitment with an expectation to reproduce with a partner the program will match with her.

There are several problems for Pilar, from abandonment issues to the fact that she’s gay. The former keeps her from telling nearly anyone that she loves; the latter, well, it’s a problem for her participation in the project, as you can imagine. Pilar’s partner Arrow (Hailey Chown) also happens to be the local leader for a resistance movement against the Mars project, which adds a wrinkle or two.

Queen of the Andes is a good example of storytelling on a budget. It takes time to explore all of these ideas and their emotional impact on the film’s characters. While the performances are not universally great (and some of the props and locations betray the production’s lack of capital), the result is highly focussed and intelligent.

The Queen of the Andes is streaming as part of the Victoria Film Festival for residents of British Columbia through February 14th.


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