'Queen of Katwe' film review
I went to the cinema alone (again) to see this film. I'm glad I did. It was a rather rainy day when I trotted along to the cinema to see Disney's newest studio film. The film was playing in a relatively small screen as it was the middle of the day and the big screens were still taken up by 'Doctor Strange', so it was really only myself and two older ladies (around 70 or so), who'd had the similar idea to come to the cinema on a day that people would be scarce. They were lovely. We sat together and they admired the fact that I had brought a packed lunch instead of "wasting my money on that ridiculous popcorn stuff". Truly inspirational people.
'Queen of Katwe' is the latest film to have Disney's logo stamped upon it and centres around the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a girl from the Katwe slum in Uganda's capital city, Kampala. Phiona's life changes when she meets missionary worker Robert Katende, who teachers her how to play chess. Phiona excels at playing the game and climbs her way to the national and international chess championships. It's a classic rags-to-riches story by some means, but it comes with a whole lot of heart. Mutesi is played fantastically by newcomer Madina Nalwanga and she captures the spirit, struggles and insecurities of the chess prodigy. David Oyelowo and Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o, famous for her role in '12 Years A Slave', are both equally as engaging and complex as their characters, portraying Katende and Nakku Harriet, Phiona's mother, respectively. Lupita Nyong'o in particular beautifully captures widow Nakku Harriet, who wants to both encourage her daughter yet has to be the tough leader of her family.
This film is full of messages about family and community. Nyong'o and Nalwanga work well together in depicting the clashes that can come between mother and daughter. It's a beautifully told story, even if the rags-to-riches tale is unsurprising in its plot at times. Ugandan culture is not just incorporated into this film. It is highlighted in all aspects, from the music (Do check out the song '#1 Spice' by Young Caradamom and HAB written for this film) to the use of the native languages. Phiona's situation in the Katwe slums is neither pitied not romanticised and this gives the film a very realistic tone. 'Queen of Katwe' is about determination and success and I'd encourage you to look up the real Phiona Mutesi. She's truly an extraordinary individual.