Miss Juneteenth is a little independent drama that is quite affecting. It's not a big and glossy Hollywood production, but rather a small film that feels authentic, with extras who are most probably the actual citizens from the largely black neighborhoods in Fort Worth, Texas, where the movie was filmed.
Former beauty queen Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie) is now a struggling single mom working at a dive bar and as an occasional make-up artist at the local funeral home. Years ago, she was the winner of the Miss Juneteenth pageant, which is named after the day celebrating the emancipation of remaining African American slaves in the Confederacy. The pageant is coming around again, and Turquoise is pushing her rebellious 15-year-old daughter, Kai (Alexis Chikaeze), into the competition. There may be a hint of Turquoise wanting to relive some past glory through her daughter, but the main reason is that the winner of the pageant gets a scholarship, and Turquoise wants a better life for her child.
Writer/director Channing Godfrey Peoples makes an impressive feature-directing debut with Miss Juneteenth. The pacing and tone she implements here is just right. Matching Peoples's skills in back of the camera is Beharie's performance in front of the camera. We see the character's wheels turning as she deals with the men in her life, tries to get the money for the pageant dress, or tries to convince her daughter to take the pageant seriously. It's a great performance.
Miss Juneteenth is currently streaming on YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.