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|Index||30 reviews in total|
Mira Nair returns to Uganda once again, three decades after she made Mississipi Masala. This is a much better film. While Mississipi Masala centered around an upper middle class Indian-Ugandan family, Queen of Katwe is set in the slums of Uganda. Nair doesn't attempt to go easy on the slum visuals here. The filth and squalor are in your face here, from beginning to end. I haven't seen a film depicting poverty in this way for a long time. Even Slumdog Millionaire wasn't so strong. Otherwise Queen of Kawate is a fairly predictable story of an under-privileged girl rising to success against the odds. The medium of her rise is chess. She's the pawn who turns into a queen, as sometimes happens in chess. The performances are uniformly good, especially given that most of them are child actors (Mira Nair's first film was Salaam Bombay and she is pretty good at handling children). I found the end credits rather moving, where the real characters pose with the actors who played them on screen. All in all a very warm, watchable film.
Queen of Katwe goes far beyond the usual cliché movie: underdog overcomes adversity to win championship. Here, wonderful actors depict real people struggling with the realities of their lives: single motherhood, overcoming poverty, feeling out of place, and the challenges of playing high level chess. Particularly compelling is the story of Phiona's mother who lost her husband and struggles to provide for four children by selling cooked maize in the market. The actress who portrays her depicts her strength, and also her limitations with integrity. A wonderful performance. Of course, Phiona's story as a chess prodigy from the slums of Katwe, Uganda is harrowing, inspiring and insightful. The movie doesn't settle for a trophy as the outcome, focusing on the impacts on Phiona and her family along the way. The story of Phiona's coach is as inspiring as her story. His sacrifices, his wife's sacrifices and his challenges providing for his family as he tries to help the children of Katwe is a movie unto itself. That's why the whole thing is so satisfying. It is an amazing story of real people, only lightly changed for film-making, well acted and compelling.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Queen of Katwe is an inspirational sports biopic of Phiona Mutesi by
Mira Nair. Mira has beautifully captured and presented the story of how
Phiona Mutesi, born and raised in Katwe (a slum) went on to become a
Chess Champion creating history for Uganda. Her life story is recorded
in a book "The Queen of Katwe: A story of Life, Chess and One
Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster". Mira has kept
the storytelling pattern very realistic and authentic. While the film
focuses on Phiona's journey of evolution from a poor girl born and
raised in a slum to a self-confident chess champion, the game of chess
is used as a metaphor to convey great philosophies of life. This film
is also the journey of a selfless coach Robert Katende who not only
taught Phiona how to play chess but also how to conduct herself in
life. Overall, Mira Nair's film Queen of Katwe is an uplifting film
which has the celebration of making of a chess champion, the journey
from 'not-having any hope' to 'dare to dream and achieve the same', the
journey from 'nowhere' to 'the top position', the art of handling
Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) is a 10-year old, who lives in the slum of Katwe along with her mother and siblings. The family is very poor and has to really struggle hard to make both ends meet. Selling maize in the Katwe Street Market is the source for earning money for them.
Phiona coincidentally meets Robert Katende (David Oyelow) at a missionary programme. Robert is a soccer player turned missionary who sets up a chess club for underprivileged children. When Phiona sees Robert teaching children to play games, she is also curious to learn the same. This is where Phiona's journey begins. When Roberts starts coaching Phiona, he notices Phiona's immense talent, cognitive thinking, and her ability to see eight moves in advance. He grooms her for international tournaments.
The film moves ahead answering many queries. How does Phiona's mother Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyong) react to, when she comes to know regarding Phiona's interest in the game and her staying away from selling maize ? How Phiona grows to becomes a top player under Robert Katende's guidance? How Robert balances his own life's commitments with his passion for coaching these underprivileged children to play chess? What all challenges are faced by Robert to at least manage to get opportunities for these children to showcase their talent to the world in the game of chess? What happens when Phiona tastes success initially, does arrogance engulf her ? Is Phiona able to resume her school once again? How does Robert respond when he realizes that Phiona is at least 8 moves ahead of him ? A few inspirational dialogues: 'You belong where you believe you belong', 'I may be down, but not out'. Robert Katende's story of cat and dog chasing meal is really inspiring, which says, the one who chases for life wins.
Even after the film finishes, the credits are inspiring since these bridge the reel with real. Each actor and actress is shown along with the real individuals whom they enacted on screen. Madina Nalwanga is excellent as Phiona Mutesi, she has very well projected various emotions of Phiona, be it her initial amusement about the game, her realization about her own potential, her sense of urgency to be a master, her frustrations of falling back into old routine in spite of creating history in the world of chess, her disillusionment etc. David Oyelowo has infused so much warmth, kindness, determination, empathy, go-getter's attitude into the role of selfless coach Robert Katende.
Lupita Nyong as Nakku Harriet is also very good, who has handled complex emotions effortlessly, be it her protective attitude, or her being suspicious and dismissive initially of Phiona's dream to be a chess champion.
A special mention of all the child artists, who are also coached by Robert Katande. There is so much humour in their interactions, their astonishment in experiencing lives beyond Katwe.
The film also inspires us to explore such prodigies in and around us and facilitate their growth. In India also, we have so many stories of people who fought the hardships of poverty, poor playing conditions, lack of basic amenities viz. food, shelter etc. to be a champion in life.
Queen of Katwe is an inspirational sports biopic of Phiona Mutesi by Mira Nair. It is an uplifting film which beautifully captures the evolution of Phiona to be a Chess Champion, when this child prodigy is identified and coached by a selfless coach Robert Katande. The film has so many positive ingredients - the celebration of 'Making of a chess champion', the journey from 'not-having any hope' to 'dare to dream and achieve the same', the journey from 'nowhere' to 'the top position', the art of handling success etc.
Loved it well made and well acted. Teary in parts. It has been a while
since a movie has had all the components of this movie. It captures how
privileged we are in the west and out of pure will and following your
passion you can come to be whom you really are against all odds.
The actors portrayed the story with great depth and conviction. I loved the end and hope all true story's have the chance to show (Those that are still living) their real persons as I felt it adds a realness to the story and movie final. Well directed as well.
There is a star in the making with actress Madina Nalwanga i am sure we will see allot more of her out standing performance.
Mira Nair previously focused on Uganda in 1991's "Mississippi Masala"
(about an Indian family forced into exile by Idi Amin). "Queen of
Katwe" is the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who started playing chess to
get out of Kampala's slums. Katwe is the sort of place where you have
to bribe people to do even minimal tasks. Lupita Nyong'o plays Phiona's
mother, the sort of person who knows the slums all too well and isn't
thrilled with her daughter's goal.
One of the most effective scenes is when the Katwe children compete against the students of King's College: the Katwe children wear the traditional Ugandan attire while the rich children wear western clothes, showing the disconnect between the social classes (a scene towards the end of "Mississippi Masala" showed something similar: when the father returns to Uganda, he looks westernized while the Ugandans wear the traditional clothes).
Admittedly, I don't know how accurate the movie is, especially since I had never heard of the story before the movie's release. Nonetheless, it's a powerful, uplifting story. The people involved in this movie deserve ample recognition for their contributions, and I hope that it draws more attention to Phiona Mutesi's achievements.
Queen of Katwe is one of those movies that in spite of the numerous
human and technical glitches still manages to make you smile, a smile
filled not with the pride an underdog-achiever infused in you, but with
a subtle sense of self-discovery.
At the outset, I'm not a fan of Mira Nair movies, and the opening scenes of QoK, with the actors speaking an unnaturally forced English, emboldened the same. I somehow thought it'd have been a better had it been a local language production, as it would have added much authenticity to speech and actions (which I still believe).
However, it is a story beautifully told. It is not a mundane victory-against-odds story, where the protagonist is pictured as bearing the burden of the odds on his shoulders and still finding a way through unimaginable hard work and grit. Here is a naturally- gifted teenager who has her shortcomings, which are showcased beautifully in the movie, but one that still finds a way with the help of a teacher who makes her realize her potential.
Though poverty was a backdrop of the story throughout the movie, I like how it remained only a backdrop and never took the center-stage, or it'd have resulted in a mundane victory-against-odds story. The storyteller touches upon the idea of how debilitating the poverty was, but never delves into it to the extent that the main motive of the story blurs.
Another part I liked specifically was when Phiona faces a sense of entitlement after coming back from Sudan. This new dimension in the story was smoothly introduced in the screenplay and beautifully woven in the proceeding story.
Special mentions for Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo.
From the trailers one would guess that The Queen of Katwe is the
typical formulaic and inspirational sports story, but it is much more.
While segments of it are the same old story told and retold so
beautifully, with a few unexpected twist and turns, is also a study of
how success affects family ties and how character is king, even in the
grim slums of Uganda. It offers a realistic and harshly honest, for a
Disney film, look at Africa, with prostitution references and poor
medical care reoccurring throughout the story. While the harsh
environment might not make the viewer feel good, it makes the story all
the more inspiring. The cinematography is excellent, with great shots
of the children reacting to a world they had never seen before, be it
an upper crust school, snow or the view from a airplane window. Great
performances from the cast.
I highly recommend The Queen of Katwe.
The movie follows the real story of Phiona Mutesi, one of the first
female titled chess champions from Uganda. The actors are African,
mostly Ugandans, even if it is a Disney movie, and it shows, as only a
few have played in enough movies to feel professional. Yet they are all
trying their best and it gives the film a more authentic feel.
As for the plot, it is a typical underdog rising above their station story, but because it shows so much about African lives in the slums of Kampala and because it is based on a true story, it feels nice, it feels real.
Not the greatest movie ever, but surely worth a watch and a refreshing change from all these pointless Star Wars films.
I can see why this type of film would be hard to market. It may not be as complex to appeal to an adult audience and it may also not appeal to kids of young ages. I feel like it could have made a splash at the Academy Awards had it been handled better with its release. As it is, it's a good film and pretty much everything that I expected. Its screenplay is good, if predictable, and the performances really elevate the story and make all of its more formulaic emotional beats work as well. Oyelowo and Nyong'o really bring a lot of heart to the story in the background while Nalwanga is able to carry the film. Definitely recommended, although it's probably not for all types of audiences.
Walt Disney's Queen of Katwe (2016) follows a familiar story formula and at the same time is a totally original cinema experience. How can these opposites co-exist? It is another 'inspiring teacher' story with a fairy tale theme of a lowly maiden who finds fame, but instead of a prince, she finds a missionary devoted to helping impoverished Ugandan children. Vivid cinematography takes you right into the villages and ghettos and walks you through dirt streets and shacks that have no windows or doors. It is this hyper-realistic photography with a mainly amateur cast that takes this film to the next level. Ten-year old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) sells corn on the streets of Katwe in Uganda to help her destitute single mother provide food and shelter for the family. Generations of girls like her face a daily struggle to survive and she has no future except in dreams of escape. Brought together by fate, she meets Robert (David Oyelowo) a missionary who coaches soccer and chess to get aimless kids off the street. She has never seen a chess board before but her curiosity draws her to learn the game despite the taunts from boys who shame her for her smelly ghetto clothes. Excelling quickly, she becomes a top player in the local club and her new confidence gives her identity and purpose. The film follows the predictable narrative arc of poor kids rising to take on the country's best. With Robert's mentoring and financial help, Phiona leads a team to compete at the national chess championships, a personal journey troubled by tensions with her mother. The story is kept sanitised for general Disney audiences by avoiding the kind of high-stake risks facing the teacher of the same storyline in The Fencer (2016). As a Disney production, you might expect to see every cliché that can possibly be squeezed out of this genre. Instead the story is light on melodrama, mainly because of the natural authenticity of Phiona and the other cast. Career actors could not have pulled this off so well. The metaphor of pawns over-powering queens and the importance of practice, planning, and confidence are a little obvious. The move-by-move close-up shots of chess competition will no doubt delight chess players but may be found tiresomely repetitive by others. But these are minor quibbles given what this film achieves: an original story told honestly on an exotic location without the usual Hollywood baggage. It is quietly inspiring and a minor triumph for Disney.
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