Phiona lives with her mother and siblings in the slum of Katwe outside Kampala selling corn to help support her family. She soon learns of a local chess club called The Pioneers and joins, much to the dismay of the boys there. After learning the game, she quickly shows her skills as she becomes champion of the club. Robert, founder and coach of the club, sees her potential and raises enough money to enter her and the rest of the children in a local tournament at Kings College. This leads to more opportunities for Phiona and within a short time, she becomes a Uganda National Junior Champion representing her country at the Chess Olympiad in Russia. Her success finally lifts her and her family out of poverty as she learns she belongs in a world far different than what she’s used to.
2016, Color, Rated PG, 2 Hrs 4 mins
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio
Starring: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o
Directed by Mira Nair
This is a classic Disney feel-good film. And it also happens to be a true story. If you are a fan of The Greatest Game Ever Played, this movie is much the same except with chess instead of golf. Most of the cast is made up of unknown actors and this adds to its charm. Only Lupita Nyong’o will be familiar to movie buffs. Madina Nalwanga, in her first film appearance as Phiona, turns in a warm and honest performance. And David Oyelowo does a masterful job portraying Robert Katende.
The story gets off a something of a slow start as it takes a little too much time establishing Phiona’s poverty and struggle. The pace picks up nicely once she begins competing and after the halfway point, I was pretty well hooked. This is a family film too as there is no objectionable material here. For those who enjoy a good rags-to-riches tale, Queen of Katwe will more than satisfy.
The image is made up of rich saturated hues that center around lush reds and fiery oranges. The African landscape is beautifully presented in all its natural glory. Interior shots are warm and inviting with plenty of contrast to make the picture pop. Detail is tack-sharp in both wide shots and close-ups.
The DTS-HD Master Audio mix is presented in a 5.1 configuration. Your sub and surround channels will have very little to do as most of the sound is dialog-centric. The actors speak with thick accents which are sometimes difficult to understand but this is more a choice on the film-maker’s part than a flaw in the transfer.
Bonus features run nearly 90 minutes and feature a three-part making-of documentary, a short film about Robert Katende, deleted scenes and audio commentary from director Mira Nair.