“Queen of Katwe” #QueenofKatwe is a Disney movie, based on a book of the same name written by Tim Crothers, based on the true story of a young Ugandan girl from the small village of Katwe, who becomes an international chess “Queen”. The screenplay was written by William Wheeler. The executive producers of the film are Will Weiske and Troy Buderand and the producers are Lydia Dean Pilcher and John Carls. It is a real life “rags to riches” story worthy of the Disney name.
I had the opportunity to attend a special advanced screening followed by a live Q&A session (via twitter – #askqueenofkatwe) with the director and the movie cast. It was even attended by the real main character, Phiona Mutesi.
Phiona’s family sells corn on the streets of a war-torn and impoverished village in Katwe, Uganda. The homes are basically run-down huts without roofs and four walls. The children cannot afford to go to school; they barely have food to eat. She meets coach Robert Katende, played by David Oyelowo. He is a well-educated man who left the corporate world and decided to become a missionary in Uganda. He sets up a make-shift game room, which becomes a safe haven for the local children to get a hot meal and learn to play chess. Phiona’s mother, Harriet, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is at first reluctant to allow Phiona and her brother to attend this chess group. She doesn’t understand the game and based on rumors, thinks Katende is teaching them some type of voodoo. Coach Katende realizes very quickly that Phiona has a natural talent for the game and that she could win tournaments and earn scholarships to get an education. He pleads with Harriet to allow Phiona to pursue this opportunity. Phiona goes on to become an international chess champion.
Having the advantage of watching the live Q&A session, I learned that the movie was filmed on location, in Katwe, Uganda, many of the players are local villagers. Phiona is played by a native Ugandan girl, Madina Nalwanga, the director, Mira Nair, spent much of her life living in Uganda, and the real characters were on-set to offer their true accounts. This ensured the authenticity of the movie. I was a bit shocked when Phiona revealed that watching this movie was her very first time to ever see a movie on the big screen! It also made me happy to know that she had come so far.
I thought the movie was fantastic. The director uses many close-up shots to focus on the character’s faces, allowing the audience to see into the character’s souls and make a connection with them. These are strong, proud, and faithful people despite their hardships. “Queen of Katwe” sends the message that education does not make people smart or intelligent. Education allows brilliant people to sharpen their minds. There are some interesting scenes in the movie that show that there is even prejudice among Africans against their own people. The affluent, educated students that participate in the chess tournaments, as well as the tournament sponsors, turn-up their noses at the kids from Katwe. Eventually, when they show their chess skills, the Katwe kids earn the respect of their opponents.
This is a must see movie. There are so many lessons learned within this film. We see how much Harriet loves her family by the sacrifices she makes to allow Phiona to play chess and go to school. We also see how much the children love and respect their mother. One night, they give up their dinner portions to allow the mother to eat. We learn that if we work hard, stand tall, and believe in ourselves, our dreams can become reality.
I see Oscars in the future for the stars and the movie itself. I also see this movie being shown in schools once it becomes available. “Queen of Katwe” is rated PG and opens Friday, September 30, 2016, get your tickets now. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Please post your comments to let me know what you think about the movie. – BMT