Uganda's underdog community finds spotlight in 'Queen of Katwe'

Thu Sep 29, 2016 11:59am EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Disney's "Queen of Katwe" isn't just the true story of Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi overcoming overwhelming odds stacked against her; it's also a rare uplifting tale from the African continent.

"God knows there's an immense paucity of films about anything to do with Africa that is about a specific place or specific street or country or character. It's always a kind of colonial nostalgia that we're presented," director Mira Nair said.

"The story of Phiona specifically was the inspiration. I'm always inspired by people who make something out of nothing," she added.

The slums of Katwe become a character within "Queen of Katwe," out in U.S. movie theaters on Friday, providing the backdrop for Mutesi's humble small world as the child is taught chess by charity worker Robert Katende, who is played by David Oyelowo.

She eventually rises the ranks of the chess world to play on the Ugandan team as a teenager in the 2010 Chess Olympiad in Russia.

"Though they live in a world of struggle, that is not what defines who they are," Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o, who plays Mutesi's mother Harriet, said of the Katwe community.

"You see a lot of personality, color and style. Uganda has a style that would make you gasp, I tell you," she added.

In the film, Mutesi often doubts her abilities, but it is the calm, upbeat and optimistic 'Coach' Katende who keeps guiding her to believe in herself.   Continued...

Actors Lupita Nyong'o (L), Madina Nalwanga (C) and David Oyelowo pose in the same manner as they appear on the movie poster seen behind him during the Los Angeles premiere of "Queen of Katwe" in Hollywood, California September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok