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Living in Katwe, a slum in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle for 10-year-old Phiona, her mother Nakku Harriet and younger members of her family. She and her younger brother help their mother sell maize in the market. She also helps care for her baby brother. Her world changes one day when she meets Robert Katende at a missionary program. Katende coaches soccer and teaches children to play chess at a local center. Curious, Phiona approaches and learns the game. She becomes fascinated with it and soon becomes a top player in the group under Katende's guidance.
Ugandan fashion mogul, Sylvia Owori, bought her way into the film as an extra at an auction that acted as a fundraiser for Maisha Film Labs. Other prizes included a "12 Years a Slave" DVD signed by Lupita Nyong'o. See more »
Every game of chess but one ends with a checkmate, something which hardly ever happens once players have acquired some experience. The one exception is when Phiona resigns a game which is treated as a personal crisis, when in fact it's normal to resign from hopeless positions - especially when playing with the black pieces, for this brings the disadvantage of not making the first move.
Never seen in the movie are any games ending with a draw, which in chess is extremely common. See more »
[Robert speaking to Phiona]
Sometimes the place you are use to... is not the place where you belong
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Just before the credits, there are short scenes of the major characters with the real people they portrayed. A brief synopsis of what the real people have done since the events of the film and are doing at the time of the film's completion is displayed as well. See more »
Written and Performed by Irene Namatovu
Courtesy of Da Nu Eagles See more »
Beautifully filmed, original and inspiring tale of triumph over adversity.
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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