Spoiler Alert Saturday :: our thoughts on Queen of Katwe

15 Oct

First things first: we did in fact see this opening weekend, because that was important, but we have just been too busy and forgetful on Saturdays. Forgive us.

I heard of this movie a few months ago, probably through Twitter, because Lupita Nyong’o is in it and I love her. All I knew about it was that it involved an African chess champion, which I originally thought was her, but later I found out she was playing the mother of Phiona Mutesi, the real-life Ugandan chess champion. I also found out this was coming out the same weekend as…another…movie about impressive children that I won’t name, but whose director has made an ass of himself, so that made me especially determined to see it.

The movie begins by establishing the life of Phinoa (Madina Nagalwa) and her family, who live in the slums and cannot afford to attend school, but instead have to sell maize on the streets in order to make a living. Her brother Brian (Martin Kabanza) begins to sneak off, and she follows him, only to discover that he is learning chess from a employee of the local mission, Robert Katende (David Oyelowo). She begins to learn as well, and quickly becomes one of the best players in the group, but hardships within her family and shortcomings due to her lack of education cause difficulties. The movie follows her journey through local tournaments all the way to international tournaments, and the trials she and her family face along the way.

If this sounds dry, I promise it isn’t! That was a concern of mine as well, but I found it quite gripping. The child actors are incredible, especially Nagalwa, and Lupita Nyong’o puts in an amazing performance as Phiona’s mother Harriet. And it’s a beautifully shot movie – directed by an Indian woman, Mira Nair, who clearly knows how to shoot and light people of color and non-US settings. It’s a vibrant and eyecatching film, and even though it’s long for a Disney biopic (124 minutes) it keeps your attention the whole time.

I’ve been checking Wikipedia to verify names and facts, and I see this movie hasn’t even made half its budget back, which is a real shame. I think this is one of my favorite movies this year, and everyone should see it. If you want more stories about and by women of color, please do yourself a favor and check this one out. If you want to see more stories about any of these variables – which, I hope you do, if you’re reading this – this is a good way to go. Visually stunning, compelling storytelling, all the good things. It’s understated, but that’s definitely not a bad thing.

–your fangirl heroines.

a20simpler20time

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