‘Queen of Katwe’ cap­ti­vat­ing, con­scious

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Damian Levy Gleaner Writer

AT THE be­gin­ning of Queen of Katwe, my worst fears about the film seemed to have be­come a re­al­ity. This story of a Ugan­dan girl turned in­ter­na­tional chess cham­pion had been trans­lated into a wa­tered­down feel-good Dis­ney movie; one with no real stakes and ev­ery­thing tied up in a happy end­ing.

How­ever, as the movie con­tin­ued, I re­alised it was re­ally my high­est hopes com­ing to pass. Queen of Katwe def­i­nitely has mo­ments of pre­dictabil­ity, but it does not shy away from the truly soul-shat­ter­ing con­tent.

As Phiona Mutesi hones her im­pres­sive skills at chess, she faces the strug­gles of her dayto-day life in poverty, hop­ing one day to es­cape it.

That strug­gle is pal­pa­ble in the film. Phiona’s fam­ily barely gets by with the tur­moil life throws their way. They get caught up in one bad sit­u­a­tion af­ter the next with seem­ingly no way out. The amount of pres­sure that the sit­u­a­tion puts on a young per­son is im­mea­sur­able.

Try­ing to muster up the hope to dras­ti­cally change one’s en­tire way of life is prob­a­bly one of the most dif­fi­cult things she had to do in this film.

All of that comes across with first time ac­tress Mad­ina Nal­wanga, who plays Phiona. As far as act­ing de­buts go, you could do worse than the star­ring role in a film with Lupita N’yongo and David Oyelowo. Mad­ina is a part of a cast that de­spite their huge star power, com­pletely im­merses you in the film. You un­der­stand and feel what their char­ac­ters are go­ing through, which works for the big emo­tional mo­ments and also some small light-hearted ones.

Queen of Katwe’s ap­proach to the story is as ed­u­ca­tional as it is emo­tional, as it pro­vides a snapshot of the strug­gle of wom­an­hood in Phiona’s home. From the un­sta­ble path of Phiona’s sis­ter,with a man who takes ad­van­tage of her in her youth, to the way her mother con­sid­ers find­ing a man to pay for her com­pany just so she can get by. Of all the harsh re­al­i­ties this movie por­trays, this was per­haps the most trou­bling since it only seemed some­thing that hap­pened so ca­su­ally to so many per­sons.

Queen of Katwe de­fied my ex­pec­ta­tions and is a won­der­ful film to see with your fam­ily, but doesn’t play it safe like so many fam­ily films do.

Rat­ing: Big Screen Watch

Academy Award win­ner Lupita Ny­ong’o stars along­side Mad­ina Nal­wanga in ‘Queen of Katwe’.

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