Verdict: The humble story of an extraordinary person.
With her every film, Mira Nair has come to be associated with a certain brand of filmmaking that is heavily influenced by her Indian roots. Her films beautifully portray the nuances of complex relationships and struggles, with hints of feminism. With Queen of Katwe, Nair finds her muse in Phiona Mutesi, the chess prodigy from Uganda. This is not the first time that Nair is exploring the complexities of slum life, she did so beautifully in her film Saalam Bombay! and this time, she transports us into the slums of Katwe in Uganda. This is however the first time that Nair has tried her hand at a biopic and we must say, she has done a spectacular job.
Queen of Katwe brings to life the remarkable and inspiring story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a young girl from the slums of Katwe, which is located in Uganda’s capital city Kampala. She lives with her mother Harriet (Lupita N’yongo) and three other siblings, who are making ends meet by selling maize. However, one day she happens to meet Mr. Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), an engineer working as a missionary who coaches slum kids in chess. Therein begins Phiona’s tryst with chess, a game considered only for the elite and does not even have a word in her native language. It does not take long for her coach to realize that Phiona is gifted and that this sport has the ability to alter her life.
The one thing that shines the brightest in the film is the cast's stunning performances. Academy-winning actress Lupita N’yongo has given a magnificent performance as Phiona’s mother; a grounded, stern woman who refuses to lower her dignity and believes in hard work. David Oyelowo as Phiona’s coach has given a very convincing performance of a man who finds happiness in the little things and has the ability to motivate and inspire the less fortunate children. And lastly, the film introduces Madina Nalwanga, who has taken on the character of Phiona with such finesse, one would not think that this is her debut film. The film stays true to its roots and the shooting locations help give us a stirring account of life in the slums in Africa.
Why You Should Watch The Movie:
A real, touching and humble story, Queen of Katwe is a ray of light. If inspiring biopics are your choice of films, this one will not disappoint you and definitely is a must-watch.