Sunday, October 16, 2016

Queen of Katwe [2016]

MPAA (PG)  CNS/USCCB (A-II) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
Los Angeles Times (M. Phillips) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review

Queen of Katwe [2016] (directed by Mira Nair, screenplay by William Wheeler, based on the ESPN Article and book [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Tim Crothers [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a nice, uplifting, family friendly (Disney sponsored) movie about Phiona Mutesi [wikip] (played in the film by Madina Nalwanga) a young chess prodigy from the impoverished Katwe neighborhood of Kampala, Uganda.  Call it a "Rocky Story of the Mind" ;-)

Phiona, about 10-11 when the story began, was growing-up destined to remain illiterate, selling corn at the local vegetable market with her widowed mom Nakku Harriet (played by Lupita Nyong'o), an older sister named Layla (or Night) (played by Taryn Kyaze) and two brothers Brian (played by Martin Kabanza) about her age and Richard (played by Yvan Jacobo and later by Nicolas Nevesque) definitely younger.  

Phiona's and Brian's lives change when Robert Katende (played by David Oyelowo) a local (though, one surmises, still "minor league") former soccer star enters their lives.  His soccer playing days largely over, and though with a engineering degree, nevertheless still unable to find a job in that field (and with a wife and family of his own to take care of) he took a job as a leader in a local Christian "sports outreach" ministry.  Interestingly enough, he was _not_ peddling soccer so much as ... chess, which the Ministry had identified as perhaps providing "better skills for life" than simply physical sport.  It was Brian, of course, who was initially both more recruited and more interested in Robert Katende's program, BUT ... it was Phiona who really took to chess like a fish in water ...

She becomes VERY, VERY GOOD ... and Readers here please understand that SHE BECAME A COMPETITIVE even CHAMPION CHESS PLAYER _even before_ she could Read.  Of course, as she got better, learning to Read, getting schooling became progressively more essential ... and the reason WHY she and her siblings could not read beforehand was because her mother simply could not afford to send them to school.  So Katende hed to help their mother find a way ...

This all becomes a LOVELY story and one that I suspect that MOST OF US / OUR FAMILIES could relate to. 

My own grandmother ended her schooling at 6th grade, when her (Czech) parents pulled her out of school to take care of her then sick mother (who nevertheless managed to live for some 35 years afterwards).  Then after a few years after my grandmother got married to her husband, my grandfather, he came down with tuberculosis (this during the Great Depression).  So she took care of my dad and my aunt (with help of her mother-in-law) running a small corner convenience store on a random street in Prague, getting up every day at 4 AM ... TO GO TO THE VEGETABLE MARKET to get fresh produce to sell then at her store afterwards.  Yes her 6th grade education limited the horizons of a good part of her life.  But she was more than this.  With a 6th grade education, she knew ALL THE WORDS to ALL OF THE ARIAS to all the Operas (in Czech of course ;-) that she'd hear on the radio each day ;-).   And she could sing some of them quite well ;-).  And my dad (and his cousin) became the first in my dad's family to make it to college as did then EVERY ONE OF HER GRANDCHILDREN.  And among her GRAND CHILDREN we could probably staff a small University department somewhere WITH ALL THE PhD's THAT WE NOW HAVE AMONG US ;-)

But ALL OF US STILL REMEMBER / LOVE our GRANDMOTHER (and her generation) whose work / sacrifices made _our lives_ what they are today.  And I do believe that almost EVERY FAMILY COULD HAVE A SIMILAR STORY TO SHARE.

So Phiona could have grown-up in an impoverished section of Kampala, but her story is easily relatable to children and families across the globe.


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