While on a Disney press trip in August, I attended a prescreening of Queen of Katwe, a story of a young girl whose world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess. This is is my Queen of Katwe spoiler free review.
Queen of Katwe is more than a movie about a brilliant chess player.
It’s a story of family.
It’s a story of perseverance.
It’s a story of hope.
It’s a story of dreams.
For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga) and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Chess requires a good deal of concentration, strategic thinking and risk taking, all skills which are applicable in everyday life, and Katende hopes to empower youth with the game. Phiona is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential. Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed. As Phiona begins to succeed in local chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments, but breaks away from her family to focus on her own life. Her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family.
Queen of Katwe will find you laughing, crying and cheering. It will redefine how you perceive hope. It will open your eyes to the beauty and heartache of life in an impoverished Uganda. You’ll probably also want to learn to play chess, if you don’t already know how. I promise though, if you go up against Katende’s team, you’re probably going to lose.
The cinematography of Queen of Katwe is unexpected and I truly believe that if the movie was just images and a musical score, you could still understand the story. It was simply beautiful.
One on my favorite scenes in the film was in the market, where some of the locals are selling spices to go with the rice and fish. I was so excited to see that they produced a video for it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Go see Queen of Katwe, now in theaters. Make sure you stay through all the credits, as the film makers share something special with you and remember, “The small one can be come the big one.”