Queen Of Katwe: A Compulsive take on Hope and Despair

Pink, which released earlier this month, came out as a rage because it was termed as a ‘feminist film’. But it actually wasn’t. It sure did throw light upon feminism and why we need it, but it wasn’t a feminist film. Queen of Katwe is a feminist film, where women out grow men in the most subtle way, they lead their lives alone and do not give up their shining sports career for a husband (bang on Sultan reference?).


Title: Queen of Katwe

Directed by: Mira Nair

Produced by: John Carls and Lydia Dean Pilcher

Starring: David Oyelowo (Robert), Lupita Nyong’o (Harriet/Phiona’s mother), Madina Nalwanga (Phiona)

Release date: 10th September, 2016 (TIFF)

Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures, ESPN Films, Cine Mosaic and Mirabai Films

Language: English

Genre: Biopic, Drama

Sometimes, when you see the trailers of certain movies, you have an irresistible urge to see them. Queen of Katwe was one such movie for me. And not at all surprising, but the movie did turn out promising. The movie involves nuances from the life of a young girl living in abject poverty and how just one opportunity after another makes her win this world. 

Phiona’s life is a very average life as in Katwe, Kampala. But Robert Katende realises her potential and natural talent for chess and begins to train her, only to make her a champion. Above all of this, Queen of Katwe is a story about love. LOVE. Harriet is raising her children alone as her husband has died and she can barely make ends meet, but there is no lack of love on her part. She does everything to make her children happy, even if it means selling her mother’s dress for some money to buy some extra oil so that Phiona can read her books at night. Phiona in turn loves her family, specially Richard, her younger brother. And no matter how wrong Night (her elder sister) is, the family eventually accepts her the way she is.

The actors play their parts beautifully. Whether it is David, Lupita, Madina or even the other kids playing chess. Lupita, who is an Academy Award winner, will not make you doubt her acting skills in this movie. She is the perfect mother to her children. Maa Durga hai yeh aurat toh. 


David Oyelowo as the coach is a great inspiration, not just for his students but for the audience too. He sacrifices his professional life for these kids from the slums. Who, by the way, refer to themselves as the “Katwe Cats”. Madina Nalwanga who plays Phiona is a first time actor and her debut performance is definitely taking her to places, just like Phiona. Her act seemed to be like Phiona – too determined to go ahead, to win. Also watch out for this little boy Benjamin. You’ll know why!

Mira Nair’s direction is just impeccable. From the slums in Uganda to the school in Sudan and to a snowy Moscow, it is all just beautiful. Yes, the slums are beautiful! When I first got to know that it is a Disney film, I expected it to be a fairy tale with a princess in a ball gown and a prince to her rescue. Though, in a way, this is a fairy tale but there are no flowing gowns, no one running across the town with a shoe to search for a princess and no evil step mother. The direction is so real that when there is muck around, there actually is muck around. If people in Kampala wear second hand clothes, they do the same in the movie too. And I love how Mira Nair has, since always, celebrated costumes. Even here she does it beautifully. I loved the scene where Harriet wears her mother’s dress and goes off to the market. Simple, but the scene holds so much importance.


And Indian theaters, please understand the meaning of not having an intermission. Please?

All in all, in a world where people complain about not getting a cab, wearing off-the-rack wedding gowns and not getting the latest iPhones, Phiona lives in a slum in Kampala, her family barely being able to make it and fighting for the basic necessities. But guess what, she is the real champion and while she is an inspiration for women across Uganda and even the world, you are busy munching your popcorn, admiring her.

My Rating: 4/5


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