Queen of Katwe, the recent Disney movie release premiered this September at The Toronto International Film Festival and was given lots of positive feedback. We had a chance to join the advance screening of the movie and enjoy the story. Queen of Katwe follows Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in slum of Katwe, who learns to play chess before she knows how to read and write. Phiona does not go to school and spends her days helping her mother (played by Lupita Nyong'o ) sell some food on the market. Being naturally curious the girl soon attends chess club offered by Robert Katende, the man who volunteers his time to teach kids this board game. Phiona is very impressed with the game and feel encouraged. She realizes that in chess the results depend on you, as her peer says you can become a Queen if you want. While Phiona is determined to learn more and put all her passion into the chess, her mom wants to protect her daughter against dangers of the world. There are not many opportunities for girls living in poor neighborhood and Phiona’s mother wants to keep her kids safe.
After a while Phiona Mutesi under Robert Katende’s guidance starts participating in chess tournaments and shows that her talent can take her quite far. But the girl's chess journey is not all smooth and easy. Winning and knowing you are one of the best can spoil your attitude towards moving on and practicing. Phiona starts complaining that she does not have a computer, fancy outfit and styles like other chess competitors. She forgets for a while how she was determined to be a chess player practicing at night using bottle caps and working during the day. Chess itself is a good teacher so Phiona starts again participating in competitions. She learns how to read thanks to Robert Katende’s wife who is a teacher at school and finally able to learn from the famous grandmasters like Kasparov via books and tutorials. And the most amazing thing is to see how Phiona’s mother changes and sees that her daughter has great opportunities to be out of slums as one day she says: “My daughter is not going to sit here.” Phiona Mutesi participates in various chess competitions in Uganda and international ones including the one in Russia's Khanty-Mansiysk in 2010 . It was not all wins as Phiona lost to Canadian chess player in that tournament but still continued to fight.
Since the story Queen of Katwe is based on real circumstances, it is great to see that Phiona is now the chess champion in Uganda and inspiration for new generation of children who wants to pursue their life dreams. Now Queen of Katwe is going to study at the university and prepare to be a chess grandmaster.
We really liked the movie, may be because it shows real life or real people. Lupita Nyong'o was so good playing strong, loving and pretty Phiona’s mother that I think she can get her second Oscar.
The movie is releasing today, September 30, and playing in theatres across Canada.