Queen of Katwe is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. The film stars Golden Globe® nominee David Oyelowo (“Selma”), Oscar® winner and Tony Award® nominee Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.
For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet, 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, 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 is not your run of the mill Disney movie even though it does pull on your heartstrings. The first thing that got to me with this movie is the poverty these people live in. You know there is this poverty in the world, but here in America we are so insulated from it. I wanted to cry just from seeing the conditions that these kids and their families live in. They don’t know how the rest of us live. They don’t have internet; heck, they don’t even have running water! As a mother, there are some definite scenes I just wanted to shake sense Phiona. You know you are watching a great story when you connect like that. Also, I think, because I am a mother that this movie hit me so much harder. I don’t often tear up and cry and I did during Queen of Katwe. Now, I’ve also read the book (which is unheard for me after seeing a movie). It does follow the book pretty well (though it is not 100% the book in order). You also do not have to know how to play chess. I don’t.
If you know me in real life, I have been telling for months to go see this movie when it comes out. It is amazing. It has opened up a part of the world I had no idea about. It is a story you must see. It is a story your kids must see. How many great minds have we lost due to poverty and that these children never get a chance? Phiona is still young, I want to go out and help her and help the children of Katwe. That’s what this movie does to you.
Queen of Katwe opened up September 23 in select theaters and opening everywhere else by September 30th. Go see it! It’ll be one of the best movies you will see this year!