You know how sometimes, something can feel too good to be true, so you underplay your hopes for it? When I first heard David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o were doing a movie directed by Mira Nair about the true story of the young girl from Uganda who became a chess champion, I muted my expectations. Not because I didn’t want it to be good, but you know, you don’t want to be disappointed either.
‘Queen of Katwe’ does not disappoint.
In this film adaptation, Oyelowo takes on the role of the teacher who discovers then nurtures the talents of the children from Katwe as they learn and eventually represent Uganda in tournaments around the continent (and eventually the world). Lupita plays the mother of the main character.
If you’re a fan of Mira Nair (as I am, I loved ‘the Namesake’), this film carries her mark. The characters feel like three dimensional people with flaws, none of the people we cheer for as an audience are perfect; no one standing in the way of the journey is a one note ‘evil’ person. And as a viewer, you become immersed in the culture of the story.
Which brings me back to my original hopes and fears. David expressed it best in the Q&A after the screening I attended, but it’s worth noting. To have the biggest studio in the world put out a movie by a female director with no major white characters, starring two Africans, with an unknown African girl playing the main character…it just doesn’t happen, ever. The fact that the film is a good, entertaining family film is a nice cherry on top, of course. But in just about every way possible, this is why representation matters.
‘Queen of Katwe’ opens nationwide on the 30th, definite recommend here.