'Miss Juneteenth' Review: Sandy Kenyon calls it one of the year's best

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Dozens of summer blockbusters have been left in limbo since movie theaters had to close due to the coronavirus pandemic, but COVID-19 has created an opportunity for small, independent films like "Miss Juneteenth."

It's available as a video on demand, and I think it's one of the best movies of the year.

A mother/daughter relationship lies at the heart of the movie, but there's also much to think about while watching a film set in Texas that takes its name from the holiday marking the anniversary of the day in 1865 when slaves in the Lone Star State finally learned they were free.

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The Miss Juneteenth pageant offers scholarships to historically Black colleges and universities, and Turquoise (Nicole Beharie) won the title 15 years ago. But life got in her way, and she couldn't capitalize on the opportunity.

At the bar where she works, a co-worker observes, "I will never get over seeing Miss Juneteenth cleaning toilets."

Turquoise works long hours so her daughter can achieve what she could not, but Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) has her own hopes and dreams and doesn't have much enthusiasm for her mom's pageant goals.

"Why you making me do it?" she asks her mother. "Didn't do nothing for you."

Coming-of-age movies rely on such conflict, but unlike so many others in this genre, Black females are the focus of this film, which was written and directed by an African American woman, Channing Godfrey Peoples.

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Ifeyinwa Arinze, a graduate student at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, said she appreciates that.

"I absolutely adored 'Miss Juneteenth,'" she said. "It was very authentic. It felt very real. I had the sense I was watching real lives, true characters."

"Miss Juneteenth" is the right film at the right time and the right place to watch it is at home -- where family and friends can enjoy it together and then have a lively discussion about the many issues raised by this wonderful picture.

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