It is Disney so we are not much likely to have trauma or an unhappy ending. Take that all as read and we find ourselves in a movie that has few white actors and 80 Ugandan kids who had no acting experience given the thrill of an acting boot camp to play their part. Of the stars David Oyelowo, fresh from his Dr King portrayal in Selma, and the young Madina Nalwanga who plays the Queen of Katwe do a convincing job.
The Queen of Katwe is a teenage girl, in the lowest rung of Ugandan slum poverty who against all the run of play becomes a Woman Candidate Master in chess. The child of a Kampala slum dares never to dream of being involved in a Hollywood ending, never mind it being her true story. Phiona Mutesi is a real life Disney story and that story deserves telling and is told well.
For me though this would always be subjective. Having spent the last two summers in Uganda, taking a team again this summer, and trying to expose my congregation to that country and our connectedness there, a partnership work similar to the one that Phiona benefited from, I was licking my movie watching lips on this one.
On May 6th we will show the film in Fitzroy and it will do everything I hoped it would. Viewers will be transported to Uganda. The contextual research is near perfect, down to the very words that Ugandan's use. The bustle of the Kampala life, the bleakness of the poor in the slums and the near impossibility to better themselves is all laid out.
Then, into such hopelessness, there are those who give their lives to improve the lives of others. Oyelowo’s character sacrifices his own betterment to improve the children that he teaches chess and other sports to... as does his wife.
Chess is such a fascinating game to play among Ugandan children or any other African child. With little play time at a young age and education done in a very rote manner, chess, that uses problem solving and imagination, is more than a game. It teaches about life and how to deal with the knocks and be creative about how to dream beyond the situation. One great spin off of Queen Of Katwe would be chess clubs springing up all over the continent!
So, if you haven’t seen it, or even if you have, come along to Fitzroy on Saturday May 6th at 7pm and see a real life Disney and a whole lot more within. No spoilers on the ending!