Queen of Katwe: The Triumph of an Underdog!
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Reviewer’s Thumb Mark
Mira Nair's film 'Queen of Katwe' a biographical sports drama has all those ingredients and elements that shall boost your faith and belief that there is nothing unachievable in this world. You are the master of your failures and triumphs; choose who you want to be. The story depicts the journey of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) a Ugandan pre-teen girl living in Kampala slum of Katwe being spotted by a local Christian missionary Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) who runs a children's chess club and offers free porridge as part of his missionary work among the poor and the needy.
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Madina Nalwanga and David Oyelowo's characters offers a life full of experiences and lessons of how winning can become a herculean task and in the journey of achieving your goal how you get exhausted, torn apart, being accepted, rejected, feeling joyful, sad, doubtful and even ready to quit. As someone has aptly said - "Experience is not what happens to a person, but it is what the person does with what happens to him/her". This Disney movie not only have lessons for individuals but also for a family on how to be partners in progress with a member in the family who attempts to tread an unconventional path.
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Mira Nair's film is based on Tim Crothers book with the same title with a tagline - "One Girl's Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion". It writes about how one day in 2005 in search of food a slum girl in Katwe along with her brother reached a makeshift children clubhouse where she finds her mentor who was destined to change her life forever through the game called chess. Initially, it was free porridge that brought the children to Robert Katende's club but many of them slowly started loving the game that resonated their lives of dealing with obstacles constantly be it poverty, homelessness, ostracism and marginalization. Among these children Phiona Mutesi emerges as a prodigy to become her country's 'Junior Champion by the age of eleven and at fifteen, the 'National Champion'. The first female titled player in her country's history, Phiona now a 'Woman Candidate Master' dreams of bagging the most elite title for her - 'The Grandmaster'.
|The Real Life Star Phiona Mutesi (Image courtesy): 700clubinteractive.cbn.com|
Lupita Nyong'o the Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress in Steve McQueen's '12 Years A Slave' (2013) plays the role of Phiona's mother, Harriet. Lupita Nyong'o has given a stupendous performance as Harriet, a mother who is fiercely protective of her children as well as is determined to wade through the uncertainties of her life to ensure food, cloth and a roof for her children. Her life with her children and the events of their life tugs at your heartstrings.
The relationship between the coach Robert Katende and the coachee Phiona Mutesi keeps us awestruck. It's so inspirational and moving that it reminded me of what Martin Luther King Jr has once said - "We will err and falter as we climb the unfamiliar slopes of steep mountains. There will be agonizing setbacks along with creative advances'.
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Mira Nair deftly captures the stark reality of the Kampala slum life on reel that the line that separates the real and the reel diminishes many a time leaving you with a lump in your throat. I remember meeting Mira Nair at 'The I View World Film Festival' in New Delhi in the month of March 2016, where some of the unedited scenes of Queen of Katwe was screened. The audience then in the hall gave her a standing ovation for coming up with such an inspirational biopic on Phiona Mutesi. The discussion that followed after the screening was engaging on the life of people in Kampala where Ms. Nair runs a small film Academy as well. Mira Nair successfully doesn't limit the story to a family drama but she takes it further to an international level where she portrays the life and triumph of a slum girl who becomes her nation's pride. Her film through the story of Phiona Mutesi raises many pertinent questions on the economic disparity, the untapped talents among the under privileged class, the system's failure to find them, encourage them and the poor medical facilities available to a commoner in her country.
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Please do not miss the closing credits because the film's credit introduces the real life heroes who has inspired the film alongside each actor and tells us what they have accomplished until now. In short, Queen of Katwe makes you find the hidden King and Queen within you and inspire you to pursue your path undeterred to the goal which you have set for yourself beating all those moves kept by your opponents on the chess board of life. Remember, in chess, the small one can become the big one! Be like Phiona Mutesi who can see eight moves in advance!!!
Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 4/5
Cast: Madina Nalwanga (Phiona Mutesi), David Oyelowo (Robert Katende), Lupita Nyong'o (Nakku Harriet), Martin Kabanza (Mugabi Brian), Taryn Kyaze (Night), Ivan Jacobo (Young Richard), Nicolas Levesque (Older Richard), Ronald Ssemaganda (Ivan), Ethan Nazario Lubega (Benjamin), Nikita Waligwa (Gloria), Edgar Kanyike (Joseph), Esther Tebandeke (Sara Katende)
Genre: Biographical Sports Drama
Director: Mira Nair
Producers: John Carls, Lydia Dean Pilcher
Based on: The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's
Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster
Screenplay by: William Wheeler
Music by: Alex Heffes
Cinematography: Sean Bobbitt
Edited by: Barry Alexander Brown
Production Companies: Walt Disney Pictures, ESPN Films, Cine Mosaic, Mirabai Films
Distributors: Walt Disney Studios, Motion Pictures
Release Date: 7th October, 2016
Duration: 124 Minutes