Queen of Katwe is a biopic, sports drama, loose on the sports aspect. This film is directed by Mira Nair with a screenplay by William Wheeler, the film stars; David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga. The film is about Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan chess champ from Katwe, we see her journey as she makes her way to the World Chess Olympiads. Never heard of her story? You should, and you will.
The good; the story. The story is compelling enough, but now it’s going to be available in an easily digestible movie form? The movie is based off of the book The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster by Tim Crothers.
The story is typical of a sports underdog movie, yet it’s as compelling as ever. Instead of physically training Phiona studies and learns from her coach, same concepts but applied into the not so physical game of chess. It works and it works beautifully. What punctuates it more is the backdrop of the poverty that Phiona’s family lives in.
Madina Nalwanga as Phiona… bravo Madina! For this being her first movie ever, she manages to capture the audience immediately. It could be attributed to her background being in dance that she’s able to navigate the silverscreen and draw us in with her presence. She’s also a native Ugandan.
The most important thing is the lack of the “white savior,” the cast is completely made up of non-Caucasians. In a time where diversity is always a point of topic, here is a true example of that where the story is told without having to create the savior or observer (Avatar, 47 Ronin…).
I could go on an on, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the movie for anyone.
The bad; there truly is nothing here. The movie grabs you at the moment go and you don’t want it to end.
Overall, what a pleasure, a true delight experiencing this film. It’ll grab you and insert you into another world. Bravo for using a cast of native Ugandans, Oyelowo and Nyong’o are the only cast members outside of Uganda, as well as having a non-Caucasian cast, setting and subject matter. Mira Nair’s direction really amplifies the experience and the hardship of Phiona’s life. Praise must also go to Tendo Nagenda who developed the project at Disney.
My family came from a third world country as well, in that aspect I was able to be connected and moved on another level that I can relate to and won’t go into.
The film ends as most biopics do with the cast of the film being shown next to the real life person that they portrayed, in this case we get the actor and the real life person on camera next to each other sharing the same space. It’s rare that stories of this nature are told of people who are still alive. There was a sense of majesty and respect by having the real life people alive and breathing up on the screen, it shows that their story isn’t finished yet, that might’ve been my favorite part.
Go treat yourself and see this movie in the theatres.
PS. Oscar material here…