I am in the mood. I find myself thinking about nothing else presently. I can’t help myself. I am truly in love. I am deeply in love with...Hmmmn. Before I reveal the identity of my darling, I must say it is something full of significance, so endearing, that my heart, for the first time in my lifetime, beats exceedingly nicely for it, treasures it, as though I have never fallen in love with anything else in the entire world. I wish this very feeling I am having right now can last forever. Can it? Maybe sooner or later, something bigger that I will love the more can surface? I ought not to worry, anyway. It is needless, presently. What matters most, as I type, is the object of love. Will you follow suit, as I plunge myself into the pool of love and explore the greatest affection ever I have encountered in movies? I introduce to you, my sweetie, Queen of Katwe.
Queen of Katwe is a film that wins my heart at first sight. Written by William Wheeler, directed by Mira Nair, produced by John Carls and Lydia Dean Pitcher, it is based on the true life story of Ugandan chess player Phiona Mutesi, and set in the heart of a slum, Katwe, in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, within a time frame that spans five years, precisely between 2007 and 2012. It revolves around the bitter experience of a widow, Nakku Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o), and her four children, as they live extremely poorly, even as they struggle to hold on to anything, to engage in any legal trade, no matter how humiliating, to feed.
It is tragic; touching; heartbreaking, rending, shattering; tear-jerking; how the widow and her children portray their roles realistically as poverty-stricken, dejected humans, in a world where it is apparent no one seems to care about what becomes of them. Having lost her husband and a child, the widow’s misery and pains aggravate as time progresses, yet, nothing, no one, seems to be touched. She cannot afford to send her children to school. With her baby son, Richard, strapped to her physical and mental presence always, she sells green vegetables and maize in a local market. While Night (Taryn Kyaze), her recalcitrant, grown up child and daughter, becomes wayward and uncontrollable, her two, smaller, capable children, Brian (Martin Kabanza) and Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), hawk maize purchased on credit, almost all day, every day. Sales on both sides earn the family miserable proceeds, barely able to meet their financial needs.
Her predicament reaches its climax when she successfully evades the payment of a huge hospital bill an unforeseen auto crash that adversely affects her son, Brian, attracts, only to end up running into and being trapped, afflicted, in a further, sequential, inevitable, sorrowful grip of the devastating consequences of a long-term poverty. Her cross becomes too heavy, yet, she bears it with shame willy-nilly.
Her obedient daughter, Phiona, encounters hope and transformation at a ministry’s training centre where she, as well as other disadvantaged children, is tutored to play chess, to win tournaments, to be a pride to herself, her family, society, nation, and, if possible, the world. She is greatly encouraged by the Ministry’s manager, Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) and his beautiful, cooperative wife. Robert Katende is a soul untimely orphaned in life but ultimately favoured by life, a lover, inspirer, discoverer, and developer of talents in poor children. Phiona relates up and down with the processes involved, and circumstances that surround her struggle to accomplish this special goal of hers.
Despite all odds, Phiona masters the art of the game, makes breakthroughs, wins trophies, earns fame and strives to be certified “the Master, the Grand Master of the Chess Game”. As time passes, she secures a mightier support from her humanitarian mentor Robert Katende, mother, siblings, friends, neighbours and fellow Ugandans, and ... Watch the movie to find out.
Apart from a most impressive deployment of flashback by characters, with which they impact fascinatingly on the play’s narrative mode to expose its objective themes associated with poverty and hope to its viewers, highlighted periods of trials and tribulations of victims are laden with rich moods of anguish, sorrow, frustration, dejection, despair and resignation, as well as subdued, angry, sad, bitter tones, displayed side by side with a silvering evolution: these are perfected in all circumstances eminently.
Moreover, my passionate love for this particular production by Walt Disney Pictures, ESPN Films, Cine Mosaic and Mirabai Films, is induced by the fact that the movie presents indirect, loud, questions begging for answers. It provokes thoughts such as why life is enormously pleasant to some people but outrageously cruel to others, why this trend is perpetually prevalent, particularly in Africa, a continent blessed with abundance of natural resources more than sufficient to make life comfortable for all Africans if well managed, and tactically demands that this anomaly be addressed, be corrected. The movie desires to attract the attention, concern, sympathy and effective responsiveness of stakeholders, especially governmental and non governmental organisations in Africa, to sincerely, prudently and transparently pursue, and effect a highly coveted economic transformation in our continent, make access to basic human needs, together with a befitting standard of living, rights to all Africans, irrespective of class.
The personality, Phiona, is a symbol of relevance, tenacity, and steadfastness.
As a character, Nakku Harriet, her widowed mother, is an epitome of dedication and virtuousness to a rarest, stunning degree that storms cannot subdue, for her moral conviction grows stronger as her situation becomes tougher. It is incredible that despite the suffering her consistency to God and the welfare of her children earns her, she does not deviate. She refuses to be compelled, to be swayed, to yield. This astonishing rectitude of hers projects a moral theme that challenges beholders to do a self evaluation of their thoughts, decisions and actions, to ascertain if indeed, they measure up to the demands of spiritual merit, and make appropriate adjustments where and when necessary. Declaring without reserve, the character’s importance as an outstandingly godly and exceedingly great, role model to every pious mind cannot be overemphasised.
Robert Katende delineates a heart who knows where the shoes of the less privileged pinch, commits himself to helping them with everything he possesses to secure a common, good future, and makes a costly sacrifice to keep his drive moving, to keep the developmental and educational dreams of his poor benefactors alive. He chooses to be the voice of the voiceless. With his life and the support of his lovely, dazzling wife, he practically advocates rescue, hope, and help for deprived children in his world.
I can try, but seeing the movie real time only, can tell it all, the intrigues, thought provoking circumstances, devastating effects and overall emphasis the film’s storyline depicts.
Mind you, this piece is a fleeting review of the drama. Book a date with this special feature. If you do not know anything about the chess game, watch it once: you will take a keen interest in it and become a die-hard, chess game enthusiast in no time. If you have a kind heart, Queen of Katwe will knock you out. If you have a stone heart, the facts Queen of Katwe encompasses will melt it, transform it and you’ll permanently fall in love with what the movie really stands for. I remain in love, intensely, with Queen of Katwe.
Writer: Bukola Olafenwa.
College: Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
First published: October 1, 2017.