The true story of Phiona Mutesi has Disney written all over it. A girl from the slums overcomes incredible obstacles to become an international chess champion, but director Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe,” feels like anything but a Disney film.
The story of Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) is an inspiring one. Born in the slum of Katwe, the incredibly bright Phiona seems destined for a life of struggle. A chance encounter with Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a local missionary, introduces her to the game of chess, and changes her fate.
While proving herself in the world of chess, she deals with real world struggles that most of us can’t imagine. Her family is evicted from their home, her older sister (Taryn Kyaze) runs away, and her younger brother (Ethan Nazario Lubega) is seriously injured when he’s hit by a motorbike. The heartbreak and setbacks are balanced with personal victories and growth, and the rock of her family, her mother (Lupita Nyong’o).
The story sells itself, but its the performances by the three main players that give this film its strength. Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, and newcomer Madina Nalwanga are the soul of this film.
The film perfectly blends this amazing story with superior acting and a touch of realism, and aside from its incredibly happy ending, doesn’t feel like a Disney film at all…in a good way.
…just for fun: