Queen of Katwe Reviewed by Jarred Tito

The Premise
A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.

The Review
A delightful film which tells a true story of how a young girl, 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) from the poorer part of Kampala (Katwe), battles against impoverished living circumstances including; having no formal education, no money, no father and at one point nowhere to live, to become one of Uganda’s most successful and celebrated competitors. We watch as she struggles towards the very pinnacle of chess greatness which is becoming a Chess-Master. For this she must win at least one major, open age, chess tournament at either an international or national level and more importantly, win the heart and trust of her mother.

This story is certainly one that will give you goosebumps and sighs, tears of joy and tears of sorrow while at the same time, leave you with a real sense that the human spirit is something to be marveled at and valued. This is certainly one of Walt Disney’s more inspired movie projects for this year that features the friendly, kind and positive aspects of the lives of the otherwise underprivileged and often forgotten youths of Kampala, Uganda.

As the film ‘Queen of Katwe’ begins we witness a different sort of Africa that is traditionally presented in Disney productions. The story is set in a very poor part of Kampala, Katwe, which is the poorest of the poorest shanty towns in Kampala. There are no singing lions or dancing hyenas but there is a very realistic element of urban Africa that fits more with an episode of ‘60 Minutes’ than it does with a kid’s film. Life in Katwe is hard and brutal and with poverty hunting so closely to the doors of most homes, you can begin to see why Phiona’s plight was so much more significant and special than her counterparts from the neighbouring towns, cities and countries.

I was significantly impressed with the story and the way with which the screen writers and director alike, handled the story. There were also some very reasonable performances from the child actors and actresses and an outstanding performance from David Oyelowo, who plays the role of Robert Katende which is Phiona’s coach and mentor. He is definitely the outstanding performer in this movie and for me gave the film a real sense of believability.

The Verdict
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and do recommend it as not only a heartwarming true story but also as a film that will inspire. Definitely one to take the whole family to and perhaps even a date.   

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: Out Now
Rating: PG
Duration: 124 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o
Director: Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding)

The Extras
Director Mira Nair decided to adapt "Queen of Katwe" into a film after making a documentary about the life of the man who trained Phiona Mutesi, Robert Katende.

Ugandan fashion mogul, Sylvia Owori, bought her way into the film as an extra at an auction that acted as a fundraiser for Maisha Film Labs. Other prizes included a "12 Years a Slave" DVD signed by Lupita Nyong'o.

The filmmakers intentionally cast newcomer actors in leading and supporting roles to introduce a lot of fresh talent with regards to young actors required for the film. A mixture of South African and Ugandan youth were cast in various roles. The only big name actors in the film are Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo.

"Queen of Katwe" will be filmed in both Uganda and South Africa.