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BFI London Film Festvial: Queen of Katwe – Review

Chess is an interesting game. The strategy of moving white and black pieces across a board in order to defeat your opponent added with restricted moves and countless ways of playing, chess has become this defining trait for brainy types and intellectuals. The whole idea is to be able to predict moves and see outcomes ahead has been revered for a long time.

The black and white game, however, takes centre stage in Disney’s Queen of Katwe.

Queen of Katwe is an achingly terrific film about perseverance and intellectual strength. As Fiona bounds through opponents making waves for her talent, her horizons broaden and her hope elevates. As with most inspiring tales, the biggest takeaway is that no matter how lacking your resources are, determination, skill, and by tracking forward with an indefiable guide, your dreams can be reached.

Yet what makes Katwe so different from the usual “make your dreams come true” garb is the focus on humility and staying true to those who gifted you with everything. As Phiona transcends the slums, her mother worries that the fame is causing her to stray from her roots and home. It echoes Nakku Harriet’s lack of education and that facet of difference layers the tale with a great thematic resonance.

The performances are undeniably good. The wish for David Oyelowo to earn bigger and greater accolades will shatter through you as he captures yet another spectacular performance. As a man struggling himself to make ends meet, he triumphs in pulling his resources to help children succeed. Oyelowo gloriously captures these different strands of emotions so and tackles the stress and sheer joy at cultivating chess-mindex children and allowing them to soar.

Lupita Nyong’o as Nakku Harriet is a force of nature, ruminating with a mothers stoicism as she fears and dreams for her children too. Able to convey this multitude, and ensure her character isn’t merely a mother, Nyong’o has proven yet again why she is the globe’s most infallible actress.

Newcomer Madina Nalwanga is great in her leading role because she tackles the most crucial element of the whole film – A child’s innocence and wonder. As someone striving forward, she really brings the essence of believing in yourself and believing that there is more to life than what has been handed to you.

Ultimately, like a chess game, the biggest struggle is the length of time. It struggles and mangles on, and can be quite dull. This is enhanced by Disney’s usual stamp. There are times where the score rings our or the story twists and you just think: “bloody Disney.” It’s just impossible for them to loosen the reigns completely and that strips away complete enjoyment.
Nevertheless, at the end of the film, you’ll be wiping tears from your eyes and your heart will race with pure delight.

Yeah…bloody Disney.


Queen of Katwe shows at BFI London FIlm Festival on 9th Oct 

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