“In chess, the small one can become the big one” – Gloria
On September 8th, the Orange County Film Society experienced an advanced screening of Disney’s Queen of Katwe. The film tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), an inspiring chess champion who faces a challenging life in the slums of Katwe, a town outside of Kampala, Uganda.
Phiona doesn’t attend school. Instead, she spends her time helping her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) and siblings sell maize in the crowded streets. This all changes when Phiona and her brother, Brian (Martin Kabanza) meet Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) who teaches chess to the local children. Robert’s dedication to the children is commendable as he helps them improve their lives through chess. It is amusing to see the other children play chess. However, it is Phiona who Robert recognizes as the pupil with the ability to become a successful chess champion.
Disney has produced several sports dramas and often times they can be formulaic. Yet Director Mira Nair keeps the viewer’s interest with an engaging storyline and a beautiful, vibrant film. The film’s strongest feature is its actors. Nalwanga, who plays the young heroine, gives a strong debut performance as a chess champion. Oscar-winner Nyong’o does a fine job playing a mother who fears for her children, allowing her to show an extremely protective side while also portraying a loving mother. Oyelowo is indispensable as he plays an altruistic chess coach and the supporting cast is notable.
Nair has created an authentic film that has a strong female narrative, convincing performances, an energized soundtrack, and an uplifting story where chess is a metaphor for life. Phiona gets to “reset the pieces and play again” overcoming a bleak life. Hopefully, Queen of Katwe can make its move and find its audience September 23rd.
Here’s what OCFS Members thought about Queen of Katwe:
“Thoroughly enjoyed the movie! It’s inspiring!” –Terri Brewster
“Great film about overcoming life struggles and done in a beautiful way.” -Carol Tomlinson
“We enjoyed Queen of Katwe. It was uplifting to see how a disadvantaged girl from Uganda became a world-class chess player.” -Eric & Judi Grant Johnston