Its been a long time since I’ve caught a new release at the theatres. But I got a free early screening of Queen of Katwe on Wednesday so I freed up some time to go. Especially since I’m those people who like these inspirational Disney movies. To be honest, I’ve only heard about this movie and how it was about a child and their journey to become a chess champion. I really didn’t know much about it but taking a quick look at the cast already made me want to go check it out.
Queen of Katwe (2016)
Director: Mira Nair
Cast: Madina Nalwanga, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, Martin Kabanza, Taryn Kyaze
An Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.-IMDB
Queen of Katwe is a Disney real-life based on a true story inspirational story. What makes this one better than all of the rest? It has a powerful cast which delivers outstanding performances and a setting that we haven’t quite seen before. Call my world of movie viewing small (because there are still a lot more movies to discover, I know that), I have never seen a movie that exposes the raw hard lives as such in any Disney movie before. Our main character here is a real child who lived through these events called Phiona who lived in a rural city of Katwe in Uganda. She lived in below average standards and can’t go to school in order to help her mom sell corn along with her siblings to keep up with their lives and maintain a roof over their heads. While this is about hard times as her and her family gets hit by one thing after another, its a story about her years of perseverance to achieve her dreams. It was brought by someone who saw the best in her when no one else could, her coach who took the time to introduce her to the game of chess and her mom’s views on it as well to promise her a better future.
I can discuss how great Madino Nalwanga is at her role playing Phiona and capturing the changes she went through as she achieved success at a young age. She started judging where she came from and wanting more. She lost a bit of herself and eventually found it back. She felt despair when things went bad, and joy when she felt like she could do more and that there was somewhere for her. Phiona’s journey to her success was a hard one but also saw her learn a lot from it. Madino Nalwanga captures it all fantastically. The same goes to Lupita Nyong’o who plays as Phiona’s mother. You can see her pain and worries even as she stays strong for her family. Her character may not be educated in the books but she is educated by her life experiences and for that, she has self-respect and takes care of her kids primarily. Its a beautiful performance. The same also goes to David Oyelowo who plays the coach. These characters come to life because of their humanity and that they aren’t sugar-coated. These were their lives and we can believe that it was.
However, the strength of these inspirational Disney movies lie in the fact that they carry an uplifting message. In a world where we talk about all the bad, its nice to see that despite this being still a less than fortunate situation in the beginning and we all go through hard times (some more than others), there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. Our future is in our hands. Maybe to some, it seems corny and silly but Queen of Katwe is heartwarming to watch even if its only small downfall is such a long run time. The best part about Queen of Katwe is seeing how Phiona grows as a person: how her successes change her and how she adapts to these changes. It is seeing her find her passions and realizing that our dreams don’t come because we are smart. Some of us need perserverance, challenges, road bumps to over and to take the time and effort to improve. Our dreams and success don’t happen in one day. It takes hard work and those who fight for it the hardest are those who never let themselves believe they are at the top (aka confident but not overconfident). I’m sure there’s a different message for everyone who watches Queen of Katwe. While it still suffers from many predictable moments, it also never quite loses its believability and authenticity.
Overall, Queen of Katwe is really good. With great performances, even the kids who I didn’t mention each and every one of, were a joy to watch. They put light into a story like this one particularly. This movie is inspirational with many great messages. It is going to be an emotional ride through the few years of Phiona’s life from her discovery of chess to learning to excel at it.