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Queen of Katwe Review (2016) | Chess Prodigy Phiona Mutesi Finds a Great Movie

Mira Nair’s movie Queen of Katwe is a stunning sports biopic that rhymes with the life of Phiona Mutesi, the chess prodigy with an impoverished devastating childhood. Phiona belonged to one of the largest slums of Kampala, so you can imagine how destitute she really was, growing up.

A powerful brain like that of hers was dying in that dreamless muck without any self-realization, selling maize and trying to earn an elusive livelihood. It was only until one day Phiona found her interest piqued by a game of chess that left her at her life’s biggest turning points.

still of Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi in Queen of Katwe movie

Queen of Katwe is the story of Phiona Mutesi’s gradual rise, from the hollows of abysmal conditions to a place where dreams get helmed. Of course none of it would have been possible if it were not for Robert Katende, the coach who never gave up on her, and saw her through every hurdle.


Chess is hands down one of the most highly addictive games ever made. It makes you smarter and better. It presents you with a keener decisive brain. The brushing up it does is simply profound. Chess remains eloquent too. Its pieces speak of ideas that promise to mould you into a winner with time. In a way it reflects life itself. To choose to make a movie on something so vast was a winning move per se.

Queen of Katwe uses illustrations galore from the 64 blocks vague labyrinth where wars are fought invariably. William Wheeler uses plenty of lines that work in sync with the game to embellish the sport further. For example, this doesn’t go unnoticed when little Gloria tries to explain Promotion in chess.

“I call it Queening. In chess, the small one can become the big one. That’s why I like it!”

image of gloria played by Nikita Waligwa in queen of katwe movie


The movie appalls you when you look at the lifestyle of the Ugandan slum. To impart you a drastic angle, in comes the very brilliant and convincing portrayal of Nakku Harriet, performed by Lupita Nyong’o. She lets you witness evil manacles of poverty and shows you the blunt ugly side of her fate, trying to raise four children all by herself. You can’t help but feel extremely sorry for her. The destitution that grows on upon her family is really unfortunate to watch.

But Phiona fights it all, fights it with the army she retains on a sheer board.

“Chess is a game of fighting. These pieces are my army.”

Madina Nalwanga‘s portrayal of Phiona Mutesi is brilliant too. A dream of becoming the Grandmaster that breathed in her mind comes alive when she goes on a conquering spree. It is nerve-racking to see her break down when she finds her dreams being crushed by privation. Also, the time when she shatters on falling from a mountain of overconfidence tingles your eyes. All of it has been beautifully depicted.

At the same time, you cannot ignore Robert Katende played beautifully by David Oyelowo. He remains the soul of Queen of Katwe movie trying at all times, his level best to uplift lost spirits. There is a teacher in him that constantly bellows streams of potency letting his children “The Pioneers” stand against the world. For that he is ready to make even colossal sacrifices that compels to you shower all accolades on him. He is a true champ!

If you wish to pre-order the movie DVD from Amazon, you can do it from here:


Mira Nair is quite a director, you must say. Not for a moment does she dwindle as she progresses towards the finish line. Eventually she ices it all with a pragmatic depiction of real life characters standing next to their actors. A subtle way of paying homage!

still of lupita nyong'o as nakku harriet in queen of katwe movie


If you try hard to look at the downsides I would say the first one is its language. Since, actors were forced to speak broken English things start appearing a tad contrived. Also, as mentioned above, chess is an amazing game. The beauty of the sport never really comes out talking in the open. This was primarily done in order to avoid indifference coming from non-playing audience. But, really we could have done with a proper nail-biting depiction of one game at least. Also, it scores a tad less in dramatic horizons considering titanic tears the script demanded.

At the same time, movie isn’t all bleak either. If you scour for hilarity you will find Benjamin another prodigy, played by Ethan Nazario Lubega as one of the most fun characters in the movie. The little fella brightens you up whenever he comes on screen.


Queen of Katwe is too good a movie for a Disney movie. We have seen how medicore Disney results have been in the past. But this Mira Nair beauty beats them all. It is also one of those rare great sports movie that puts your faith back in games again. Do watch!

Check out the trailer of Queen of Katwe here:

Pele: Birth of a Legend Review (2016)

Pele: Birth of a Legend is a very light sports entertainer that fails to capture the game in its truest form. It is not a good sports movie, but it is definitely a great entertainer if you are looking for something really frivolous to go with your frolic mood. It seems to have been helmed for those who aren’t really big fans of the game.


Pele: Birth of a Legend will let you have a glimpse into the life of Pele the true legendary footballer and throw some light towards his madding fad. Things that were pulling him down were all around him, and despite all the odds he shone through.

The movie tries to capture his street football shenanigans, adds in some humour, a pinch of dramatic spices and tries to bring in the forefront the popular Brazilian Ginga style that was Pele’s USP.


Despite how Pele: Birth of a Legend lodges in you some good vibes, it falls flat owing to its pathetic depiction. You constantly see drops of frustration on Pele’s brows, which really takes a toll on your spirits. If you are really looking for something extraordinary to happen given the mammoth sports figure he is, the movie lets you down so many times, you constantly wonder if something out of the box is going to happen. Even though it does, it is nothing akin what happens in a gut-wrenching live sports match.

Leonardo Lima Carvalho was a pleasant find. He made young Pele really endearing. His group shenanigans were a delight to watch. The starting bits of the movie were the best moments I would say. Even Seu Jorge who played Dondinho was great. Vincent D’Onofrio unfortunately had very little to play with in his baggage, but he performed his bits nicely.


Melodrama has been deliberately pushed in its frames and there is so much of it that it becomes really exhausting at times. When in the middle of the game players go in bullet mode to have a look at each other, you can almost imagine how implausible its dramatic elements must be.


There is a guest appearance by the legend himself at one point, which will bring a smile to your face. But that’s about it. Eventually you get to see one game in Pele: Birth of a Legend, but then it is smitten with so much melodrama that sports simply gets lost in those pointless close-up frames. Nothing wrong with watching it once though.