Hmm, in chess the small one can become the big one – This is the story of how a young 10-year-old girl, Phiona Mutesi changed the game of chess for Uganda, how the game changed her life and how she became the Queen of Katwe.
Queen of Katwe has been out for over four months now and I have only just got the opportunity to see the film and yes it was real. I was slightly worried for how the film could go. At one time, I wasn’t looking forward to the story because I thought the Disney was simply going to show meaningless stereotypes of Africa. I thought, this film is too close to home and it will deeply hurt if not fully mined for its worth.
So far, Disney doing true based stories has been a winner for me. Remember, McFarland USA and the Million Dollar Arm? Those were promising and Disney kept to its promises. However, with these films, Disney went as far as they could allow for; ending at the optimum of success for the boys in both films. Queen of Katwe, takes you steps further and shows you a different dimension to a bittersweet reality. What do you say to a child who’s first flight out of the country is to a place where life is better but comes home to live in an empty building? What do you say to a child who has found a dream and now wants to live for the dream but can’t because a man will come after her? What do you say to a child who is drawn away from home to the pleasures of this world, when you know you cannot provide but you try? Disney didn’t ran away from the harshest of harsh realities an African country can bring. Instead, it embraced it and actually finds a place for both the joys and plights of this family living in Katwe, Uganda.
The film does not fall short of showing the everyday lives of people in Katwe; the busyness of the marketplace, people walking on the streets, some swerving left and right as bikers and cyclists dominate the road, the neighbourliness and family love that is never ending in the atmosphere. You can see happiness and love in this film – the developing and improving relationship between a mother and her child. Phiona Mutesi’s story is quite the journey from Katwe in Kampala, Uganda to become a titled chess player and then to the global stage, is not only that of a prodigy but also that of a real dream come true.
If I didn’t watch the trailer (over multiple times…ha ha) before watching the film, I’d honestly think and ask myself, how could she possibly find her way out of Katwe to find and follow her dreams? For Phiona, the answer was chess. I have a theory: underprivileged children know what hard work is because that’s their life. When something new, exciting, fun and challenging comes their way, they are up for it. No matter what, they always want to learn why, what, how, when and where. Before you know it, they’ve outsmarted, outdone and conquered the best. They become the best and nobody knows happiness like they do. This is Phiona. This is Brian. This is Ivan. This is for sure, Benjamin. Give the kids an opportunity and they’ll never look back. They’ll soon realise that “Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong. You belong where you believe you belong” as David Oyelowo who played Robert Katende said in the film. Happiness is not only a feeling, it is a way of life and if you want happiness you’ll find it just like Phiona did in the end.
Queen of Katwe proves that Africa does not need the help of “outside saviours” as many media outlets like the charity adverts in the UK for example suggest. Fortunately for the western audience, a global platform such as Disney helps you to see that my continent is doing well for itself and its local people of many countries. Thank you Phiona Mutesi for your story.
Watch the trailer here: