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Fatemah Hassanali

Date: 10/11/2016
Word count: 638

Disneys Queen of Katwe an Honest Representation of an Underdogs
Journey to Success.

Directed by Mira Nair, Queen of Katwe is an inspiring story of Phiona (Madina
Nalwanga) who is from the slums of Uganda and discovers a hidden talent in chess.
Queen of Katwe is based on a true story, which was first written in an article by Tim
Crothers in 2011. This extraordinary story was nominated for a National Magazine
Award and was then published in a book. Inspired by the book, the film was created
which received high ratings from the biggest critics such as Rotten tomatoes and
Metacritic. Mira Nairs 27 years in Uganda enabled her to reach expectations of
presenting the Ugandan culture accurately. The characters traditional dressing,
African music in the background and the accent used by the actors provides a strong
context of the Ugandan culture for the unfamiliar audience.

The story revolves around a shy and humble girl, Phiona, who is from the slums of
Uganda. While carrying out her daily duty of selling maize, which is her familys only
source of income, she notices a small room where children are being offered
porridge. Her hunger for food draws her into the room where she is warmly
welcomed by Katende, who introduces Phiona to Chess. At first, she is undermined
by other students for her unfamiliarity with Chess. However, she gradually learns

from a younger student and familiarizes herself with the game. In a few days, Phiona
starts defeating her chess mates who have been playing longer than she has. This
grabs Katendes attention and he notices her potential to become a Grandmaster.
With the help of Katende (David Oyelowo) and the support from her mother Nakku
Harriet (Lupita Nyongo), Phiona is given an opportunity to compete nationally and
internationally. The excitement is built whenever Phiona is against older chess
players, as they are perceived to be more experienced. Her victory is significant not
only to her family, but to her entire village, Katwe.

The storys emotional aspects with some hints of comedy grab the audiences
attention throughout the 2-hour movie. This underdogs journey is not a usual one
where happy endings are quick. Queen of Katwe portrays the hardships Phiona and
her family goes through while she pursues her talent in Chess, which is Phionas
only way out of poverty. Even after achieving victory nationally, Phiona still goes
through pain and suffering whereby she even loses her home and is forced to live on
the streets. However, for Phiona, chess is her source of happiness. After Phionas
brother, Brian (Martin Kabanza) encounters an accident and is rushed to the
hospital, tension build up within her family as to how they will cover his health
expense. This adds more burden on Phiona than what she already is experiencing
and she loses hope in improving her life through chess. Katende encourages her and
explains life to her through Chess. He says, Never be too quick to surrender your
king. The linkage of chess with life is another aspect that makes Queen of Katwe
unique than other underdog sports movies.

Mira Nair also portrays some aspects of breaking the norm especially when it
comes to women roles and marriage within the village of Katwe. Nakku, a single
mother is seen working for her family without a man providing for her. In many
instances, she is blamed for being poor due to not having a mans support and her
own daughter is seen conforming to the norm. She is also persuaded by her long
time friend to get married to him in exchange for wealth but she refuses to accept to
offer. This is mistakenly taken as ego by the people of Katwe. Mira Nair portrays this
trait as self-sufficiency as Nakku is seen enjoying her independent life which she has
control over.

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