Queen of Katwe

2016-10-14 08:28

What it's about:

The colourful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda, whose world rapidly changes when she’s introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.

Based on The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster (the book) by Tim Crothers.

What we thought:

Queen of Katwe is an inspirational African story, a rarity as this side of Africa is hardly ever seen in the movies. 

Too often African stories lean toward darker themes like violence, war, poverty and sickness and Hollywood usually misses the mark as the stories don’t have much of an African voice. 

With one movie Disney has broken the curse and has given an authentic tale; from the setting, its approach to the story, the all black cast and its African soundtrack. 

It might be a big Disney movie but it is a proudly African product. 

Based on the real life of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) it tells the story of her rise from the slums of Uganda to becoming its first ever female chess grandmaster. 

But the road wasn't an easy one for Phiona who lived in a shack with her three siblings and her single mother Harriet, (Lupita Nyong’o) who barely manages to keep them all fed from her meagre selling of corn in the marketplace. 

Her life takes a turn when she follows her brother one day to a local youth centre run by Robert Katende (David Oyelowo). There she is introduced to chess and this is the catalyst in her life.

Soon Phiona's gift takes her into a world that is far removed from the slum she comes from. The film captures her struggles as she tries to fit back into her world after she had experienced such a different life. 

Oyelowo and Nyong’o give brilliant performances but the stars of the show are the child performers.

First time actor Nalwanga was discovered by the casting director in a dance class. What makes her performance so powerful is because in a sense art was imitating real life for her. Plucked from her dance class to being in front of the cameras on a world stages she must have gone through the exact emotions and journey that the real life Phiona experienced. 

Her character goes from being a shy, low self-esteem girl to confident young woman - it's amazing to watch her transform. 

The other child actors too do a sterling job, their performances are so real they are a delight to watch.

While it's really hard to fault this film the storytelling does drag a bit and the 127 minute run time is tedious. 

But overall this film is a joy to watch especially in the end when the real life people are joined with their characters. 

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