Queen of Katwe – Review

Genre   Biographical, Drama
Directed by Mira Nair
Starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga, Esteri Tebandeke, Peter Odeke, Sheebah Karungi
Released on September 10, 2016 (TIFF), September 23, 2016 (United States)
Duration 124 minutes
Flixxpanda Rating 8/10
Channel Netflix

Queen of Katwe is a story on perseverance through hardship and success through hard work. It’s warm and lovely, making it a perfect Disney Production.

The film revolves around 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), who lives with her family in a slum named Katwe in Kampala, Uganda. She’s lived in poverty her whole life. Her mother, Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyongó) is a constant figure who ties the struggling family together. Phiona and her brother help their mum sell stuff at the market and scavenge for food and water. Poverty is not romanticized, it’s their ugly reality.

When the charismatic Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) comes onto the scene, you can already feel it. You know Phiona’s life is about to change. She meets him at a missionary program and he takes her under his wing. Robert coaches soccer and teaches children to play chess at a local center. Phiona is intrigued by chess and is a quick learner. Robert’s a really good coach and soon she becomes one of the top players.

Slowly but surely Phiona competes in chess tournaments and rises up the ranks. We revel in her success and cheer her on from the audience. But it’s not easy, there are hurdles that often seem so harsh that we’re left stunned with a lump in our throats. There is opposition from the local chess authorities. Further, she’s not used to stepping outside Katwe. The stark contrast of the outside world compared to small Katwe is all too prominent as we watch her squirm uncomfortably. She faces humiliation from older and more experienced opponents. But she barrels through. She’s strong and we love her for that.

Fortunately, she’s not de-humanized. We watch her struggles with her identity as she competes in higher-level competitions over the years and as the stress mounts, we watch her wrestle to stay grounded. Her education is limited but she doesn’t crumble and stays a fierce persona over the years. She’s someone we can all relate to.

The fact that the movie boasts a mostly black cast is radical in itself. It stays true to the original story. It’s authentic and it’s beautiful. The cinematography is gorgeous, and hats off to the director, Mira Nair for bringing this story to life in such a touching way.

Queen of Katwe opened on September 23rd, 2016 with a limited release in the United States followed by a general theatrical release on September 30th. It has received positive reviews from most critics since then, and audiences all over the planet have loved it. Give it a watch, you will be moved by the story and it’ll probably leave you in tears, lord knows me and my friends were sobbing by the end.

Video Credits – YouTube

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