Although I watched Queen of Katwe last week, I saved the review until after the Hygge Challenge, for a reason. I needed time to unpack the truths. This film, based on a true story, found its way to me in an unusual fashion. Not only did the story inspire me, it underscored that something magical is occurring in my life.
This trek down the rabbit hole began when my daughter Elissa sent me a quote:
“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place where you belong.” From the film Queen of Katwe
She had not heard of the movie, nor did she look it up. Elissa loved the quote and thought I would appreciate it. Plus, there was the intriguing word queen listed in the source of the quote. The queen chess piece is my symbol for 2019 and the word and image continue to show up daily in my life.
I loved the quote too. And being unfamiliar with the film, I looked it up. This is what I read, as a summary of the storyline:
A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.
Amazed, once again, I had to watch the movie.
Queen of a Film
Queen of Katwe stars Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Kabanza and Hope Katende. This biographical drama, directed by Mira Nair, is based on the book by the same title written by Tim Crothers. The movie carries a PG rating, for adult themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.
A young Ugandan girl, Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga), lives in the slum town of Katwe with her mother and siblings. After the death of her husband, Phiona’s mother Harriet (Nyong’o) struggles to feed and provide for her four children. She moves them from house to dilapidated house, barely able to survive.
The children are removed from school and help their mother by selling maize on the litter strewn streets.
Changing Her Life
Life is difficult and the future bleak, until Phiona follows her younger brother Brian (Kabanza) one day to a neighborhood mission. There she meets Coach Robert Katende (Oyelowo) and watches as children from Katwe play chess. The boards are hand painted and the chess pieces rough, however Phiona and several of the other children discover that they have a knack for the game of strategy.
In fact, Coach Katende quickly realizes that Phiona is a chess prodigy, able to visualize eight moves ahead. He and his wife Hope (played in the film by the real life Hope Katende) alter their plans and make choices that allow them to help Phiona and the children of Katwe have a chance at a better life.
From the poorest of the poor families struggling in the slums, Phiona learns to read, studies books about chess and yearns to become a master of the game. This brilliant and amazing girl moves step by step, from a mission house to competitions to international tournaments, her life shifting to parallel the game she is mastering.
From Pawn to Queen
I was so deeply moved by this film, which is available on DVD and Netflix. What an incredible impact chess had on Phiona and the other children of Katwe. And how life changing was the love of Coach Katende and his wife Hope, for families whose lives appeared hopeless. Coach showed great respect for Phiona’s mother, honoring her as he recognized the difficult sacrifices she made for her children.
This feel good movie is cheer worthy. I was in tears by the end and literally applauding. As I usually do after watching a film based on a true story, I fact checked and found the events and portrayals in Queen of Katwe to be accurate. To my delight, an added bonus during the end credits brings together the actors and the people that they played.
I don’t yet fully understand what is going on in my own life, however it revolves around this idea of moving, step by step, from being a pawn to becoming a queen. It’s more than an idea. It’s a Divine invitation to learn, to grow, to leave some things behind and enter into new territory. Queen of Katwe inspired me and challenged me to step up my game, so to speak.
The rest of the quote that Elissa sent me is this:
“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place where you belong. You belong where you believe you belong.” Queen of Katwe