The stories that inspire me the most are ones of the underdog, the rags-to-riches stories of people who have odds stacked against them and eventually come out on top. The story of Phiona Mutesi has stolen my heart. In Queen of Katwe, a young Ugandan girl learns to play chess and becomes a champion. I’m sure she never imagined that she could inspire people especially a new generation of young chess players or even a mom like me. Phiona has an incredible bond with her family, especially her mom Harriett. Love and sacrifice is a universal theme when it comes to protecting your children. Harriett did her best as a single mom to raise her four children. She believed in Phiona and supported her dream.
I’ve seen the film three times. Twice with the Queen of Katwe Event group and once with my daughter. I feel that this story is relevant and young children, especially girls, should see. Role models can come from all backgrounds, shapes and sizes, and especially beyond music videos dancers and magazine spreads. Queen of Katwe is an autobiographical drama about a young person whose life was changed because of a man who believed in her. Phiona, along with other “Pioneers”, discovered a talent for chess that they may never have known if it weren’t for Robert Katende.
Queen of Katwe has beautiful messages of strength, endurance and the intelligent and tactical sport of Chess. Here are reasons why I took my daughter to see the film and why you should share Phiona’s story with your children:
This is a true story! A book was written about Phiona’s journey that Disney turned into a film. Queen of Katwe is filled with important life messages that we can all learn from.
Girl power! There is a scene in the film where the boys can’t believe a “girl” is beating them. Phiona shows them that girls can do anything that boys can do and maybe even better. I learned that chess is a male dominated sport. I’m sure that is intimidating for women and men. I imagine that males don’t like to be beaten in this game by a woman. But Phiona shows that it can be done!
Girl Power! This film was directed by Mira Nair. Not only is she a woman but a woman of color. This is a good conversation piece about women- that nothing is too hard for us and to reach for the stars. Mira is talented and did a fabulous job directing Queen of Katwe. My daughter wants to direct movies and I hope that she’ll see more women in this field as she grows up surrounded by the film industry here in Los Angeles.
Girl Power! We have two strong female leads in this movie. This is an inspiration for all of us. Madina Nalwanga is a newcomer and shows her raw acting talent and innocence radiate the screen. Lupita Nyong’o is an award winning actress who played Harriett and has recently taken Hollywood by storm.
Bonds between a parent and child can be unbendable. Harriett shows her kids tough love that’s necessary to survive the situation they are in. They lost their husband/father, were evicted, but they still had each other. Lupita does a marvelous job portraying Phiona’s Mom Harriett. We could feel her love, her pain as well as her own personal growth through this journey. She eventually lets Phiona spread her wings so she could grow into a champion. Letting go of our kids isn’t easy to do but it was inspiring to watch as a mother.
Seeing how people deal with poverty in this film was an eye-opener. My daughter will never know what it’s like to live in a town with no toilets or running water and having to fetch water from a pipe in the center of the village. Even in the midst of poverty, there was still a sense of pride, strength and perseverance in the village. I feel in the USA many children are being raised with the sense of entitlement and that leads to disrespectful attitudes and action. It’s important to raise responsible and empathetic children who aren’t materialistic and ungrateful. I even find myself complaining about the health care system in this country but after seeing what people go through Uganda and even in this county to afford a doctor gave me perspective on appreciating what I have offered to me. We need that wake-up call and to be put in our place sometimes, especially when we are too quick to complain about what we don’t have when we already have a lot…
Chess! It is a game of strategy, bravery and organization. It was stressful to watch these young people agonize over their next moves and for the youngest to have a meltdown when they lost. But it also brings light to a unique sport- one that has its rewards and obviously challenges and changes people’s lives. I went to a showing of Queen of Katwe filled with young children who play in chess clubs. They cheered during the chess scenes all while understanding the moves! I still don’t really get it. But my daughter is inspired to play chess. I’m all for it and in the process of buying her a chess board. Hopefully she will teach me!
Culture. My daughter and I enjoyed hearing the Ugandan language, the “snaps” and seeing how the busy villages thrive and how they operate. The clothing and fashion were colorful and from what I learned the clothing was mostly garnered from second hand stores in the village. We live in a country where fashion is a huge part of our culture. It was good for my daughter to see that we shouldn’t lose our identity in clothing.
The music. The first thing my daughter acknowledged was the music and that Disney doesn’t usually have this kind of music. The film was authentic, with fabulous music choices that moved me and my 9yo.
Queen of Katwe is fantastic movie on all levels. Checkmate!
Disney’s Queen of Katwe opens for a limited release on Friday, September 23 followed by a nationwide release on September 30.