Queen of Katwe is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.
For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet, is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende, a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Chess requires a good deal of concentration, strategic thinking and risk taking, all skills which are applicable in everyday life, and Katende hopes to empower youth with the game. Phiona is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential. Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed. As Phiona begins to succeed in local chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments, but breaks away from her family to focus on her own life. Her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family.
So many parts of this movie touched me. First of all, knowing this is a true story really hit home. I was on the edge of my seat rooting for Phiona, not just to win the game, but to win in life! This film is full of beautiful, inspiring characters. Harriet, the mother to the amazing chess prodigy, had me feeling the same feelings as her throughout this film. How could she trust a stranger to take her daughter to far away places? How would she feel having someone else provide for her child? My heart hurt for this mama and the life she was living. My heart also rejoiced with her as well. Seeing her daughter excel and provide a better life for their family was truly heartwarming. My favorite part of the movie is when Robert said to Phiona, “Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong. You belong where you believe you belong. Where is that for you?” So very true. Just because Phiona was born into poverty did not mean she belonged there. She was destined for greater things. Through trial and tribulations, she overcame much to earn her way up and out of poverty.
See Queen of Katwe in select theaters September 23rd and in theaters everywhere September 30th!
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