I just got back from seeing Queen of Katwe, and as I expected, I really enjoyed the movie. The acting was fantastic. Madina Nalwanga's portrayal of Phiona Mutesi looked natural and effortless, while adult actors Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo nailed the roles of Phiona's mother, Harriet, and her chess coach, Robert Katende.
What impressed me the most about the movie is that it successfully treads the line between realistic and inspirational. It's a Disney movie, so you know it's going to have a happy ending, but I also didn't feel lied to about Phiona's economic situation. At various points in the film, the family is kicked out of their home, they have to sneak out of a hospital because they can't afford the bill, and Phiona's sister is (tastefully) depicted as relying on sugar daddies for money. Madina Nalwanga does an amazing job of portraying a young girl who has had a glimpse of a better life and can't reconcile it with her current reality, while Lupita Nyong'o delivers a stunning portrayal of a loving mother who is under severe stress.
Obviously, this movie is about a lot more than chess, and I think that's what makes it an excellent chess movie. This isn't a film about geniuses who are dancing on the brink of insanity. In Queen of Katwe, chess is what keeps the main character sane.
Queen of Katwe is also an important film because it's a movie with no significant white characters. We need more movies that tell stories about non-white people and non-westerners, which makes Queen of Katwe more culturally valuable than the usual Disney fare. I hope that its presence on the scene breathes new life not only into the film industry, but into the game of chess.
My name is Liz, and I play a lot of games. By day, I am a teacher. By night, I am an avid gamer.