section Documentary Film Competition

Queen of the Deuce

  • Valerie Kontakos
  • GR
  • 2022
  • 78 min

Chelly Wilson, a businesswoman of Greek-Jewish origin, loved men and women, played poker with porn stars and mobsters, defied all the challenges of her life - and was the ruler of an empire of porn cinemas in 1970s Manhattan.

In her apartment located over a porn theatre, Chelly Wilson celebrated Christmas together with her family and many friends: "She held court like a mafia godmother," her grandson remembers. This immigrant from Greece had made it from a kiosk saleswoman to a successful businesswoman and was living the American dream. Short-tempered and imperious whilst also charming and generous, she knew many influential people. Little did even Chelly's youngest daughter know that the matriarch, whom everyone respected, was a Sephardic Jew from Thessaloniki whose real name was Rachel Serero and that she narrowly escaped the Holocaust. Director Valerie Kontakos uses newsreels, home video footage, animation sequences and testimonies from Chelly's daughters, grandchildren and friends to describe an eventful life. The documentary begins with images of a successful businesswoman and yet soon finds itself tracing the roots of a Sephardic Jew in the 20th century, one whose life and its path of arranged marriage, family hierarchies, the pursuit of freedom and autonomy, the obligations of motherhood and the effects of National Socialist persecution was anything but straightforward. Chelly Wilson successfully built a new extended family in Manhattan and yet also suffered from survivor syndrome. In the US she enjoyed her newfound freedoms, refused to allow herself to be patronised and shared her life with her husband and several lovers. Insights into a complex family history as well as the fascinating subculture of the erotic and porn film scene in New York City in the 1960s and 1970s. Chelly Wilson showed these in her theatres on 42nd Street, in the sinful yet vibrant neighborhood nicknamed “The Deuce”.
Text: Kira Taszman
English: Peter Rickerby

On 14.6. at 21:30 at Kino Central director Valerie Kontakos will be present for a film talk before the film.
On 17.6. at 21:00 at Kino Krokodil and on 18.6. at 15:00 at Filmkunst66 co-writer researcher Christos Asteriou will be present for a film talk after the film.

watch trailer

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original title Queen of the Deuce

international title Queen of the Deuce

german title Queen of the Deuce

JFBB section Documentary Film Competition

  • director Valerie Kontakos

country/countries GR

year 2022

duration 78 min

Portrait of Valerie Kontakos

Valerie Kontakos

BIO A native New Yorker, Valerie Kontakos has been living between Athens and New York since 2003. After graduating from New York University, she worked as a sound editor for the Maysles brothers, Deborah Dickson, Anita Thacher and others. In 1989 she directed her first feature documentary A Quality of Light. In 1994 she became the deputy director of the Hellenic Foundation in NYC, where she started the NYC Greek Film Festival and curated a monthly program for the American Museum of the Moving Image. Her second feature, Who’s on First? (2006), aired in the US, Greece, Finland and South Korea. Her third feature, Mana (2015), went viral during the 2018 wildfires in Greece, helping the nuns featured in the film rebuild their orphanage. She founded the production company Exile Films in Athens in 2007 and has been operating the non-profit Exile Room, focusing on social outreach through documentary, since 2009. She has been on the Board of Directors of the Greek Cinematheque for over a decade. Queen of the Deuce is her fourth feature.