Director Mira Nair returns with this rousing tale of a brilliant Ugandan girl whose humble life is transformed after she realizes her gift for chess. Based on an amazing true story, Queen of Katwe stars David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom, Selma), Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.
From her vantage point in the Kampala shantytown of Katwe, 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga) can see precious few routes out of destitution, even though her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), works hard as a vegetable vendor to clothe and feed her children. When a missionary and one-time soccer player named Robert (Oyelowo) begins teaching the local kids to play chess, Phiona is transfixed—and displays an instant affinity for the game.
Recognizing raw talent and fierce moxie when he sees them, Robert takes Phiona under his wing. Harriet is worried that her daughter’s new-found passion might lead to heartbreak but soon Phiona is triumphing at local tournaments. As she gets more and more opportunity to demonstrate her talents, Phiona begins to realize that she might also be able to help her family find a better life.
There are few things more inspiring than a young person realizing their potential, and Nalwanga—as gifted an actor as her character is a chess player—captures Phiona’s self-actualization beat by beat, move by move. Queen of Katwe is a thrilling story of hope and discovery.
“This humanistic tale, helmed by a masterful filmmaker, offers a potent—and yes, inspirational—story of triumph against huge odds.” (Claudia Puig, The Wrap)
“Nair’s film is a joyous triumph in the way it makes the story accessible, without losing sight of the specifics that make it not just a true story, but a complete and real one … it’s the rare uplift story that also acknowledges the complexities of real life.” (Tasha Robinson, The Verge)