Last week I had the chance to watch Queen Of Katwe, a movie that will hit theaters everywhere this Friday, September 30. Actually, I saw it twice. Once in a small Disney Studios lot theater and a second time on Hollywood Boulevard in a theater with the cast and crew of the movie sitting just a few rows behind me. I was brought to tears each time because we had met the actors, we met the real-life inspirations of the movie, we met the director, and truly because it was a beautifully made film based on a true story. The tears shed were because Disney has done it again, bringing magic to life, they’ve created something where the small one becomes the big one and given us all lessons to learn along the way.
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.
Here are the 3 reasons you should see Queen Of Katwe.
- It’s a True Story and It’s Relatable. Despite the extreme life of a third world country, there are many ways this movie moved me and will move my family when they watch it as it’s relateable on many counts. It’s sad but true, 9-year-old Phiona Mutesi didn’t go to school, instead she worked in the slums of Uganda selling corn to make money for her family. I cried when Phiona says she cannot read after Robert hands her books on learning chess. Having a 10 year old daughter myself, I immediately felt a connection to this movie. Imagining what it would be like if my daughter could not read, write, or have a formal education is something that I cannot fathom yet you watch the film and see happiness, hope, and determination in the lives of these children despite their daily challenges. Phiona’s mother is a widow with four children making ends meet, but her love for her children is the same as mine, fierce, passionate, and desperately protective. Robert Katende, a university trained civil engineer, finds himself in Katwe where his faith steered him into the development of a chess program for at-risk youth. My husband, also a civil engineer, would drop everything if he could provide for our family and also do something he was passionate about. In the past, he’s coached baseball and soccer to our children and community leagues, so he understands how meaningful it is to develop skills within children and to see them shine. As a former school teacher, I also know what it’s like to work with children (some who had challenging home lives) and have seen the beauty of growth, determination, and achievement. I also want my children to see this movie. They’re aged 10, 15, and 17 and they all have taken up a hobby/passion for sports, dance, and scouting that like chess cultivates abstract thinking, innovation, and creativity in some form. I think everyone should see this film because it will touch a nerve in some way.
- The Cast. The film stars Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o who brilliantly plays Harriet, Phiona’s mother. Harriet is a mother of courage and director Mira Nair believes that is the strength and beauty found in Lupita when they were casting the film. Lupita broke down and cried after reading only 10 pages of the script and was challenged and inspired like never before that she wanted in immediately! David Oyelowo recently played Dr. Martin Luther King in Selma and was inspired by the passion and humility of Robert Katende who chooses to use his talents to give back to the community in which he resides. Their roles in the film are outstanding and they both hoped to portray their characters to the best of their ability. Their emotions in the movie were so real that they brought me to tears and their fellow actors also felt the same way! In an interview I’ll discuss later this week, Martin Kabanza (Brian) stated that his favorite part of the movie was the flood scene because Lupita was so unabashedly real in the scene. Now, what was phenomenal was the children in the film. The main characters had never acted before and they were all found literally within miles of the town of Katwe. 14-year-old Madina Nalwanga (Phiona Mutesi) was discovered in a dance rehearsal at the Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy where she’s studied for 10 years (my daughters are dancers so this is so meaningful to me). She like Phiona sold corn on the streets until the owner of the dance academy, which offered shelter, education, and dance and drama skills to socially disadvantaged and vulnerable youth, rescued her. Their stories are are identical so it is amazing how this translated into Madina’s first experience as an actress. Nair first noticed 14-year-old Martin playing soccer down the road from her home in Buziga and was impressed with how he managed to hold his own and come across completely genuine without being overly cute. “I had never acted before,” says Kabanza, “But I learned a lot of things from the acting workshops like how to concentrate and stay in character. We also learned how to play chess and I got to ride on an airplane for the first time, too.” Their innocence, youthfulness, and honesty was very humbling as we experienced in our interviews with Madina and Martin. The Pioneers in the film were a mix of both middle class and slum children. Filmmakers realized the enormous responsibility involved when working with young children, especially when they come from under-privileged backgrounds, and provided tutors, workshops and training exercises to help provide them with transferable life skills they could take with them when production wrapped. Having so many locals in the film makes it that much more genuine and be sure to watch this movie to the very end of the credits, you’ll be applauding and probably teary at the outcomes of the characters in the film!
- Inspiration. There are dozens of life lessons throughout the film that you’ll be nodding your head to. Family first was a big one. This is no doubt something I already focus on in my life and for my family. Harriet wants the best for her family, wants them to succeed, but also has fear and will protect them as much as she can. I also want to applaud Robert Katende’s wife Sarah for giving her husband encouragement and support as he does spend time away from his family in some instances for the sake of the ministry and others. Taking risks by stepping outside your comfort zone is another lesson. Both Phiona and Harriet had to let go to some extent to allow Phiona to pursue her dreams. I can relate that my current job as a blogger pushes me to places I never thought I’d go, especially with social and generalized anxiety. Have a plan, this is something that I say to my college freshman each week when we face-time and it’s relateable to playing the game of chess. Also, consider the other side of the board, when you see the movie you’ll know exactly what I mean! You should see Queen Of Katwe, it will inspire you, you don’t need to understand how to play chess, nor do you need to think of this movie as negative side of Africa. It goes deeper than that and into the human spirit. It’s about love, hope, determination, and success and I hope you see it and come back to tell me how you enjoyed it!
Queen Of Katwe is in select theaters now, everywhere on September 30th, bring tissues!
for more #QueenOfKatweEvent posts, interviews, and red carpet experiences from our trip, check out the following link, http://jenisonajourney.com/tag/queen-of-katwe.
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My trip that included the Queen Of Katwe screenings was hosted by Disney but every moment documented is 100% my own.