“Queen of Katwe” is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on 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.
Phiona Mutesi grew up in an Ugandan slum so lacking in services that her exact birth-date is unknown. Her father died of AIDS when she was three and her family struggled which led to her dropping out of school by age nine. The film is about what happens next to the starving girl who’s sleeping on the street.
Based on “The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster” by Tim Crothers, the film about the true story of Phiona Mutesi could have been just another forgettable underdog story. However, the director is Mira Nair who’s previously directed such films as Salaam Bombay!, Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake. Just in the trailer alone, the shots are beautifully framed. The cinematography has preserved the richness of the African setting. “Queen of Katwe” was filmed in Uganda and South Africa, employing locals on and off the screen. Phiona is played by a local girl, Madina Nalwanga, who had never acted before. Balancing out the cast are award winning actors, Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo. Ugandan media has praised the accents of speech patterns of both actors as being accurate for the area. With this much talent, praise and a September release date, it appears that Disney is not only confident at its success but that it could also be a contender at awards time.
“Queen of Katwe” will be released September 23, 2016 in the United States.