Queen of Diamonds: Nina Menkes’ Indie Feature

In Nina Menkes’ “Queen of Diamonds,” set in Las Vegas’ Par-a-Dice casino, the protagonist, Firdaus, is less a victim and more of an onlooker.

The film is punctuated by long takes and sparse dialogue, contrasted with Firdaus’ expressive facial and body gestures.

Some plot elements are suggested, but the emphasis remains on Fridaus’ isolation. Within the casino, there’s a cacophony of sounds and lights, poker chips, cards flashing across green tables, but outside, the lights are bright, the sand glaring white, and the sky dark blue. Night scenes bring eeriness (a dead cat and Christ upside down on a cross) and beauty (three elephants move with an amazing grace).

Comparing her films, Menkes said: “The difference between my first two films is that in ‘Magdalena, the oppressed woman recognizes what’s going on, and she’s really involved in battling against the oppressors, yet she desperately wants validation from them. ‘Queen of Diamonds’ is light-years ahead of that. Firdaus has relinquished that desire; she’s much less involved in that judgment. The self-hate is lifted.”