Disney’s ‘Queen of Katwe’ is an autobiographical treat

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NEXT MOVE—Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwana star in Disney’s “Queen of Katwe.” The story is about the impact the game of chess has on a young African girl. Photo credit: Disney

So many films in recent years are based on comic book heroes and villains or robots and futuristic fantasy. But often a movie is at its very best when it tells true stories about real people who are able to overcome obstacles in their lives.

So many films in recent years are based on comic book heroes and villains or robots and futuristic fantasy. But often a movie is at its very best when it tells true stories about real people who are able to overcome obstacles in their lives.

Tom Hanks, for example, took on the role of Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks,” a few years back. In that film Walt wants to bring the delightful children’s book “Mary Poppins” to the silver screen. Unfortunately the author refuses for many years. But nothing deters Disney, who is determined to bring the magical nanny to life because it is a story his daughter loves.

Will he succeed? Obviously he does, but how he finally accomplishes his goal is not only funny, it’s touching and moving as well. This year Hanks stars in ”Sully,” the true story about airline captain “Sully” Sullenberger, who crash landed in the Hudson River. Miraculously no one perished and tragedy was averted.

Another autobiographical story currently on screen is Disney’s “Queen of Katwe,” the amazing true story of a young Ugandan girl played by Madina Nalwanga who, despite the odds, becomes a world class chess champion. We first meet her selling food on the street to help support her family. Her mother, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, struggles to earn enough money to keep her children fed following the untimely death of her husband.

Things start to change when the young girl follows her brother to a church facility where David Oyelowo teaches children how to play chess. At first she watches from the sidelines, but soon Oyelowo encourages her to learn the game. To his amazement she turns out to be a prodigy. Even though she cannot read or write, she has an amazing mind and a determination to learn everything she can about the game.

Oyelowo takes her under his wing and eventually he finds a way to take her and several of his other highly gifted students to a chess tournament. This is no easy task since his pupils are extremely poor. Some of them, like Madina, are not even able to read or write. If allowed to participate in the regional championship games they will be playing against wealthy Ugandan students.

How Oyelowo fights for his kids, coupled with Madina’s determination, is truly uplifting and inspirational. But her story is not without pain, suffering and setbacks. Even her mother stands in the way at first, fearing that chess will take her daughter away from her duties at home.

You don’t have to know anything about chess to be drawn into this story. Of course if you are a chess nut you will find the story even more compelling. However, what draws you into this young girl’s obsession is her ability to overcome insurmountable obstacles   Not only is she “out-classed” by the wealthy students she must compete against, her mentor Oyelowo must convince the Ugandan chess community to bend the rules so she can compete with players who were developed in the traditional establishment system. It is gratifying to see how much can be accomplished when someone like Oyelowo is willing to make personal sacrifices to enable a young talented girl realize her dreams.

At the end of the film the actors and the real life people they represent are shown and we find out how their lives have changed. We also are told what they are doing today.

“Queen of Katwe” is well worth seeing. And there is already Oscar buzz surrounding this inspiring true story, Rated PG for thematic elements and an accident scene.

DVD Update: “The Legend of Tarzan” arrives onto Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Own it early on Digital HD on Sept. 20 and Blu-ray Combo Pack on Oct. 11. The action packed film is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan stories.

Disney’s ‘Queen of Katwe’ is an autobiographical treat