Title: Queen of Katwe
Directed by: Mira Nair
Blu-Ray, DVD, streaming
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Naiwanga, David Oyelowo
Release Date: 9/30/2016
Reviewed by: Kaitlyn Carter
FA Scorecard: A
Since her father’s death, Phiona has lived among the poor in the Ugandan village of Katwe. She and her siblings have been struggling to support their mother. But when a local pastor takes on the challenge of introducing a chess club to the street kids, Phiona’s natural-born talent for the game unlocks a world of opportunities—including national and international championships.
I found many beautiful things to love about this film. Based on a true story, not only does it take its viewer on a journey to Uganda and the realities of many families struggling to survive, but it showcases the strength of the human spirit. Solid determination shines like gold all throughout this story. It’s on vibrant display in Phiona’s concentration on the chessboard, her mother’s constant battle to support her family and even the pastor’s courage to push for opportunities for the village children.
Phiona’s journey is ultimately one of success, leading her to play in international championships. Chess also paves the way for her to receive an education, including university. The credits even reveal that she is currently studying there today.
But the film also sheds light on the dark side of success. After returning from a victory in Sudan, Phiona becomes complacent, ignoring her chores and displaying a haughty attitude towards those around her. Ultimately, this leads to a painful defeat and Phiona later admits that “Losing teaches me how to play better,” but it also serves as a reminder that success is not the end all. How we behave after our victories matters.
Phiona isn’t the only character who shines. Affectionately titled “coach” by the village children, the pastor yearns to use his education to provide a better future for his family. However, when a lucrative job offer comes up, he refuses, seeing more value in his work among the children. For him, success wasn’t about the job or the money that came with it, but rather doing the work he had been called to accomplish. Likewise, Phiona’s mother remained devoted to her calling—to caring for her children. Throughout the story, she never wavers. Instead, she stands strong and works tirelessly to provide food and a roof over their heads. Other women encourage her to find a man solely for the purpose of financial security, but she continues forward with her head held high. Her strength is one that inspires Phiona, encouraging her to press on toward her goal. This is a key element to the movie making it an inspiration to all walks of life–whether mother, pastor, or chess master.