The mother-daughter coming-of-age movie “Miss Juneteenth” tells the story of Turquoise Jones and her teenage daughter Kai. Born and raised on the historically Black south side of Fort Worth, TX, Turquoise, played by Nicole Beharie, achieved her dream in her youth when she won the local Miss Juneteenth pageant. That’s a real event, and it comes with a coveted crown and scholarship.
Turquoise thought her win would be the beginning of big things, but those dreams got derailed when she became pregnant shortly after her win.
Without much help from Kai’s father over the years, Turquoise works multiple jobs to stay afloat. She desperately hopes the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant will be a golden ticket for Kai, played by Alexis Chikaeze.
But Kai doesn’t have much interest in the pageant and would rather practice her dance routines.
“Miss Juneteenth” was released, naturally, on June 19 last year. The National Board of Review has named it one of the Top 10 Independent Films of 2020 and awarded filmmaker Channing Godfrey Peoples with Best Directorial Debut.
Peoples, who also wrote “Miss Juneteenth,” made the film with her husband, producer Neil Creque Williams. They met at USC film school more than a decade ago. A chance encounter on an elevator led to them working together ever since.
Williams and Peoples explain that pitching “Miss Juneteenth” often began with having to explain what Juneteenth is. They tell us about deciding to move to Texas to make the film on location and featuring real businesses. And they share how they found out they were pregnant just when they got the green light for the film, which meant bringing a baby on set.
“Miss Juneteenth” is nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards, including two nods for Peoples for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay.