Thursday, September 22, 2016

Everything About ‘Queen of Katwe’ is Beautiful

Madina Nawanga in "Queen of Katwe"
Madina Nawanga plays Phiona in her first film role. (Disney/ESPN Films)
MOVIE REVIEW
Disney has done well with their recent sport-based movies (McFarland, USA, Million Dollar Arm) and Queen of Katwe can be added to the mix though some will debate if chess is really a sport. But just as it can be debated that chess is a different kind of sport, Queen of Katwe is a different type of Disney film and dare I say a possible Oscar contender?
 

Though this film is a partnership between Disney and ESPN films, Queen of Katwe feels like and independent foreign film. There is no Hollywood glamor here. The story begins in the slums of Katwe, Uganda where young Phiona (Madina Nalwanga in her first movie) is selling vegetables in the streets for her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) instead of attending school. Her older sister, Night (Taryn “Kay” Kyaze) is getting restless and is getting offers to spend time with a man who owns a motorbike. The family sleeps together in a pile like puppies on the dirt floor of their rental hut. Food is scarce and life looks miserable. In a sobering scene, Phiona asks Night if God loves them. Shocked, Night says, “Why would you say that?” and Phiona says that ever since their father died, their lives have been turning sour. Then Night says something surprising: “I don’t think God cares for us one way or another.”
 

Review of the movie, "Queen of Katwe"
Madina Nawanga and David Oyelowo
Meanwhile, Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) reluctantly takes a job serving as a soccer coach for Sports Outreach, a faith-based organization. When his notices two boys who don’t want to play because they are afraid that they will break their bones, Robert introduces them to the game of chess. At each meeting, the kids receive a cup of porridge to fill their stomachs as well. One day, Phiona spot the meeting and ventures inside. She immediately gets in a fight with one of the boys who tells her that she stinks, but she doesn’t leave. Robert sits Phiona down by Gloria (Nikita Waligwa) to explain how the game is played. Gloria gives her the Reader’s Digest version and also tells Phiona to go away because she “can’t take your smell.) Undaunted, Phiona leaves and comes back the next day, but only after she has thoroughly bathed.

In short order, Phiona picks up the game and is beating the other kids. Robert notices how determined Phiona is to learn and encourages her to try out for different tournaments.
Queen of Katwa’s story takes place over four years and during that time, Phiona and her family go through various trials. Phiona’s mother is not a fan of chess at first, but slowly warms up to the game and allowing her children to partake in tournaments. As the years go by, Phiona learns to read with the help of Robert’s wife and starts to make a name for herself.
 

Being that this is a Disney movie, you won’t be surprised how the film ends, but you might be surprised at all of the hurdles taken to get there. The story is so perfect it is hard to believe that it is all true. At the end of the movie, we get to meet the real characters of the story standing next to the actors.
 

Review of the movie, "Queen of Katwe"
Madina Nawanga and Lupita Nyong’o
Queen of Katwa is a beautiful film in every sense of the word and should be inspiring to everyone who sees it. Though it is not a faith-based movie, there are plenty of religious themes throughout where the family chooses to thank God for their meals, traveling mercies and more. The film is also about forgiveness and redemption and not giving up. The mother could be seen as a villain to the story, but that really isn’t the case. Instead, the stubborn and prideful woman serves as an inspiration for her daughter who plays chess in hopes of changing her family’s future. And she does.

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