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What to know: Intense, inspirational, incredible.
Recommended age 8-18
124 minutes
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QUEEN OF KATWE cover image Click to play video trailer
Disney's Queen of Katwe is the most intense film I have ever seen. Like Akeelah and the Bee, which it resembles, it is the kind of film that induces nail-biting suspense. The story concerns a poor young girl from Uganda, who becomes a world chess champion. The film is directed by Mira Nair, a renowned "indie" filmmaker. It stars David Oyelowo (Selma), Academy Award winner, Lupita Nyong'o (Twelve Years A Slave) and introduces Madina Nalwanga, as the young chess prodigy, Phiona.

Uganda is a country of contrasts. There is great economic poverty, but a rich cultural heritage and great national pride. The coach of the local school decides to start a chess club for the children. He entices the kids to learn chess by feeding them porridge every day. Phiona, a girl from the poorest part of the slums, follows her brother to the club and notices him playing chess. She is spotted by the coach and is then invited in. She quickly becomes the best player, crushing all competition at the club. The coach realizes that Phiona has a gift and encourages her to lead their team at the national tournament. The rest of the movie is her journey to become a chess grandmaster.

The Queen of Katwe is a colorful, exciting film full of memorable moments. Every time the kids win a game or tournament they do a cool handshake and dance. My favorite part of the film is during the second tournament, when Phiona aggressively squeezes her opponent's pieces into checkmate. Another great scene is when the children compete in another country and experience their first meal at a fancy restaurant.

Overall the acting is top notch and the African music throughout the film is captivating. Oyelowo as the coach is a terrific role model for the children. He is a hardworking, dedicated, selfless teacher. Nyong'o as Phiona's mother is also an interesting character. Although poor and uneducated, she is still a strong and passionate advocate for her daughter's happiness. The message of the film is how much you can achieve with hard work and gumption.

Queen of Katwe is an important film for our time because it has a universal message for young people everywhere. It is appropriate for ages 12 through 18 and I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed by Clayton P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

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A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.
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