Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Queen of Katwe, Captivating and Conscious

Published:Monday | October 3, 2016 | 10:00 AMDamian Levy
Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o stars alongside Madina Nalwanga in ‘Queen of Katwe’.

At the beginning of Queen of Katwe, my worst fears about the film seemed to have become a reality. This story of a Ugandan girl turned international chess champion had been translated into a watered-down feel-good Disney movie; one with no real stakes and everything tied up in a happy ending.

However, as the movie continued, I realised it was really my highest hopes coming to pass. Queen of Katwe definitely has moments of predictability, but it does not shy away from the truly soul-shattering content.

As Phiona Mutesi hones her impressive skills at chess, she faces the struggles of her day-to-day life in poverty, hoping one day to escape it.

That struggle is palpable in the film. Phiona's family barely gets by with the turmoil life throws their way. They get caught up in one bad situation after the next with seemingly no way out. The amount of pressure that the situation puts on a young person is immeasurable.

Trying to muster up the hope to drastically change one's entire way of life is probably one of the most difficult things she had to do in this film.

All of that comes across with first time actress Madina Nalwanga, who plays Phiona. As far as acting debuts go, you could do worse than the starring role in a film with Lupita N'yongo and David Oyelowo. Madina is a part of a cast that despite their huge star power, completely immerses you in the film. You understand and feel what their characters are going through, which works for the big emotional moments and also some small light-hearted ones.

Queen of Katwe's approach to the story is as educational as it is emotional, as it provides a snapshot of the struggle of womanhood in Phiona's home. From the unstable path of Phiona's sister,with a man who takes advantage of her in her youth, to the way her mother considers finding a man to pay for her company just so she can get by. Of all the harsh realities this movie portrays, this was perhaps the most troubling since it only seemed something that happened so casually to so many persons.

Queen of Katwe defied my expectations and is a wonderful film to see with your family, but doesn't play it safe like so many family films do.

Rating: Big Screen Watch