Queen of Katwe
Director: Mira Nair
Writer: William Wheeler
Based on: Tim Crothers‘ non-fiction book The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster
Cast: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Kabanza, Taryn Kyaze, Ivan Jacobo, Nicolas Levesque, Ethan Nazario Lubega
Seen on: 26.4.2017
Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) lives with her mother Nakku Harriett (Lupita Nyong’o) in the slums of Katwe, Uganda. Life is tough and Phiona and her brother Benjamin (Ethan Nazario Lubega) have to work to try and get a bit of money for the family, especially since Phiona’s older sister Night (Taryn Kyaze) went her own ways. That’s when Phiona stumbles on Robert Katende’s chess club. He offers not only to teach chess, but also food. Drawn in by the latter, Phiona gets more and more interested in chess. And it turns out that she’s really good at it.
Queen of Katwe is a supercute film about an intersting girl and story. The film itself is not particularly revolutionary, but it’s well-made and has a great cast.
Queen of Katwe follows the usual sports movie formula pretty much down to a iota. Since it is based on a real story, that immediately poses the question how much that story had to be altered to fit that concept. But it doesn’t really matter much, because it’s not like the film can really show reality anyway and at least the formula is very effective.
Coupled with the unusual setting and that we actually got a rather big Hollywood film set in Africa that isn’t about white people at all, the well-known narrative structure gets new life and manages to push all the right (emotional) buttons.
Plus, the cast is simply fantastic. Nothing less would be expected of Oyelowo and Nyong’o (although it would have been nice if they’d actually cast Ugandans in those roles as well), but Madina Nalwanga was also really good and managed the task of playing with those big talented names very well.
This makes the film an absolute pleasure to watch, even when it gets a little overwrought at times to fit its genre. I can imagine that if I had seen this as a child, I would have become interested in playing chess myself (and then would have quickly given up on it because it really isn’t my game at all). I can only imagine how black girls must feel seeing Phiona.
Summarizing: Absolutely sweet.