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Awards Profile 2019: Melina Matsoukas’ ‘Queen & Slim’ from Universal Pictures

Welcome to the 2019 Awards Profile series, where we talk about films coming to a theater near you in the coming year (at least at this time of writing). The series analyzes the films and their awards season potential, most notably for the Academy Awards, based on the talents attached, filmmakers involved, and story and source material.  Monday through Friday until mid-May, AwardsCircuit will bring you a new and exciting project and discuss its chances for success. If you have a suggestion for a movie we should cover, include it in the comments section below. If you miss a film covered, click on the tag or category for “Awards Profile.”

FILM: “Queen & Slim”

DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures
PRODUCERS: Melina Matsoukas, Andrew Coles, Michelle Knudsen, Lena Waithe
DIRECTOR: Melina Matsoukas
WRITER: Lena Waithe
CAST: Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Chloë Sevigny
SYNOPSIS: A couple’s first date takes an unexpected turn when a police officer pulls them over.

Scheduled Release: November 27, 2019


If there was an Oscar for Best Pitch, “Queen & Slim” would certainly be a frontrunner based on its intriguing premise. Sure to spark debate, this thriller – about a couple on the run after killing a police officer –  touches on one of the most significant social issues facing America right now. While film and TV have seen no shortage of narratives about police brutality, this original spin on the situation will likely challenge our notions of morality and justice. From afar, “Queen & Slim” feels like a strong contender for Best Original Screenplay, in the vein of other socially conscious genre fares like “Get Out”.

Bringing this story to the big screen is a pair of up-and-coming creatives at the forefront of pop culture. Sitting in the director’s chair is Melina Matsoukas, most popularly known for directing iconic music videos for Beyonce and Rihanna, in addition to her work on HBO’s “Insecure”. For the film’s screenplay, Matsoukas will be supported by a writer with whom she struck gold before. Namely, the film reunites Matsoukas with Lena Waithe after their unforgettable collaboration on the “Master of None” episode titled “Thanksgiving”. If they can recapture the magic of that small screen effort, this could be yet another breakthrough for this dynamic duo.

Other names to watch include the film’s lead actors Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith. Kaluuya has successfully backed up his Oscar-nominated performance in “Get Out” with further noteworthy efforts in “Black Panther” and “Widows”. Meanwhile, “Queen & Slim” could prove to be a breakout opportunity for Turner-Smith in her first major film role.


Although the film’s premise is certainly topical, the Academy has seemingly dodged this particular zeitgeist. Despite strong notices, the similarly themed “Blindspotting”, “Monsters and Men” and “The Hate U Give” received no nominations. As such, there is still a question mark surrounding their readiness to confront this issue by putting such films in the Oscar spotlight. Additionally, the other unknown quantity is the ability for Matsoukas and Waithe to successfully translate their music video and TV prowess to the big screen. Early word is very positive, but will the final product deliver?


  • Motion Picture – Melina Matsoukas, Andrew Coles, Michelle Knudsen, Lena Waithe
  • Director – Melina Matsoukas
  • Actor in a Leading Role – Daniel Kaluuya
  • Actress in a Leading Role – Jodie Turner-Smith
  • Adapted Screenplay – Lena Waithe
  • Film Editing – Pete Beaudreau


  • Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay (Critics Choice): As the recently concluded awards season proved, the critics are still significantly more progressive in their tastes in comparison to the Academy. To establish itself as a serious contender, “Queen & Slim” will likely have to land with a large critics group like the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

What do you think of “Queen & Slim” as an Oscar contender? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS!


What do you think?

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Written by Shane Slater

Shane is a passionate cinephile and Tomatometer-approved film critic residing in Kingston, Jamaica. When he's not watching or writing about film, he spends much of his time wishing he lived in a big city. Shane is an avid world traveler and loves attending film festivals. He is a member of the African-American Film Critics Association.

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