Queen of Katwe: Film Review


Queen of Katwe is one of those uplifting, inspirational films that I just love – they make you feel like you can do anything if you put your mind to it and keep fighting, no matter your circumstances. I think that’s a great message to teach young kids so I get why Disney chose to make this story.

Newcomer Madina Nalwanga stars as Phiona, who lives in the Katwe slum in Kampala, Uganda with her mum (Lupita Nyong’o) and three siblings. Her dad and sister died and none of them are in school so they can help their mum raise money by selling food. Despite her lack of education, Phiona proves to be gifted at chess and her coach Robert (David Oyelowo) enrols her in competitions where she soon rises the ranks and aims to become a Master.

It’s refreshing to see a live-action Disney film take place in Africa, especially in the slums, and while it is a vibrant, glossy version of slum life, which I’m sure isn’t how it truthfully is, it’s still good for kids to see this way of life, a different culture, food, clothes etc and realise how lucky they are not to struggle for money, access to education or a roof over their heads. It makes you appreciate what you have. Phiona is also a great role model and her story is very recent, the film goes up to 2012, and her determination and courage is admirable.

It’s just so nice and sweet. I really enjoyed it. I loved Nalwanga, she is cheeky, joyful and occasionally cocky about her abilities but she also shows a vulnerability. Nyong’o showed a newer side as the hard mother, who fiercely protects her kids, sometimes too much, while Oyelowo is perfect as the father-like figure who helps Phiona see her potential.

The music is brilliant, it looks gorgeous, and the other chess ‘pioneers’ are hilarious. Obviously we have to hit some lows so she has something to fight for and this could be seen as cheesy but I saw it as inspiring. I may have had tears in my eyes at the end. This is one feel-good and heart-warming film – make sure you watch the music video in the credits.

Originally seen as part of the 60th BFI London Film Festival. In cinemas today

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