During the Disney press event last month, I saw a pre-screening of the new movie, Queen of Katwe. This film is based on a true story and, much to my delight, is told in a very grounded way. It didn’t feel like a Hollywood movie at all. Instead, the movie is charming and the talented cast immerse you in this young girl’s story. Queen of Katwe is an empowering and touching film for mothers and daughters to see together.
Queen of Katwe Review — Expectations
“Queen of Katwe” is based on the vibrant true story of a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Queen of Katwe. Was it just going to be another glorified sports movie where the underdog wins in the end? Could such a story be universally relatable? How close would the movie mirror actual real-life events? Would the culture be treated with respect? These were just some of the concerns I had about this movie. Fortunately, Disney did not disappoint.
Queen of Katwe Review — Characters & Story
The experience of Phiona Mutesi is a moving one and doesn’t feel forced as all. She is good-natured, loves her family, and is a diligent worker. However, she comes face-to-face with the sad reality that females in her society have little worth outside of being used by men. She is also forced to work day in and day out just to survive. Then, a local teacher introduces her to chess and opens her world to something completely new.
The story spans several years. We see how Phiona stumbles upon the game that piques her interest and which she seems to have quite a talent for. That’s not easy when you come from the poor circumstances this girl does. She has to fight many obstacles, the greatest being her own personal fears. Phiona has her strong-willed and self-sacrificing mother to look up. But, she sees a stark contrast in her sister who wants the easy way out. There’s also the issue of dealing with the fame and lifestyle of competing. There are several issues that would make great talking points for your next mother to daughter conversation.
The way characters are developed feels authentic. That makes sense as the actual people the movie is based on were involved the making of this. The follow-up narration (when the audience is given a “Where are they now?” summary) was fantastic!
As for the culture, though harsh conditions are candidly shown, the portrayal of people of Uganda was colorful and lively. The various scenes felt like a glimpse into what life is like there. I also loved the mannerisms included and interaction between those of different social backgrounds.
Queen of Katwe tells the story of a girl who allowed herself to dream and who struggled chase that dream. This film presents a powerful story that is handled with great respect and dignity. The development of Phiona is touching and will empower young girls to work hard for what they love.
Queen of Katwe will play in some 2,000 theaters on November 30, 2016!
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I was invited on an all-expense paid media trip as a guest of Disney in honor of the Pete’s Dragon movie. All opinions are my own.