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Movie with a Message: Queen of Katwe

Updated: Sep 10, 2018

"Wherever you are from, your dreams are valid" Lupita Nyong'o

Hey guys! I am excited to write my very first post under Movie With a Message. I am such a movie lover, I have recently fallen in love with storytelling, and I am a sucker for a good Under Dog story because it always leaves you believing that you too can achieve incredible things. Slumdog Millionaire, The Blind Side, McFarland, and Lion are a few of my favorites. Today I am going to focus on the Disney movie- Queen of Katwe, which was released back in 2016.

The story is about a young girl named Phiona Mutesi, who lived in the slums of Uganda but gained considerable recognition and success because of her impeccable chess skills. What struck me about this young girl's journey is that she did not let her circumstances define her or her future. She discovered the game of chess from a man who worked as a missionary while teaching some children how to play chess in exchange for a cup of porridge.

One day Phiona's curiosity leads her to secretly follow her brother to a place where he always seemed to go. And voila! She discovers her gift. Her brother has been sneaking off to go learn how to play chess in exchange for food. She is so intrigued by the game and starts to learn how to play it and becomes the best among her peers. Her mother, who is represented by the incredible Academy Award Winner Lupita Nyong'o is not too thrilled about this new found love her daughter has.

Phiona is now driven by her passion for this game and is no longer interested in doing house chores as she used to. She lives, breathes, and sleeps chess. Not too long after Phiona conquers the chess scene in Katwe, Mr. Robert Katende her teacher who is also the missionary, (portrayed by David Oyelowo) hears about a competition in a prestigious school and thinks it would be a great opportunity for her and the other kids to take part in it.

After much convincing by the missionary, the people who put the competition together allow for the children of Katwe to compete in Kings College. Although nervous, they beat most of their opponents and come in second place with Phiona dominating the competition. Phiona now sees that there is more to life than she knew in Katwe, chess has gotten her on a plane to other parts of Africa and Russia.

She is no longer comfortable with life as she knows it. Her family is struggling, and she dreams of bringing them out of poverty. She eventually wins a prominent competition in Uganda in 2011, which awarded her the title "Queen of Katwe." Her family is so happy that someone out of their household and the slums of Katwe has made it. She buys them a new home and moves them out of the slums, just as she had promised her mother.

What's more interesting is that this movie is based on a true-life story, adapted from an ESPN article and a book by author Tim Crothers on Phiona Mutesi's story. Ms. Mutesi is a Junior Chess Champion in Africa, she now competes around the world and hopes to become a grand-master and a doctor someday.

Fun fact: The first movie Phiona Mutesi ever saw in the theaters, was a movie about her own life! How fantastic is that? She was also present at the premiere of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Lessons Learned

1) No matter where you are from, your story is valid: Phiona was from the slums of Katwe, we all know the "usual" narrative of the people who live in such conditions. They either resort to crime for a possible way out, or they look out for someone who will be their savior. Although Robert Katende, the missionary was just that (savior) to Phiona and the other kids he coached in Chess, rather than give them a "get out of jail card" he recognized a gift in them and helped develop it.

I doubt if Mr Katende or Phiona ever dreamed of their story becoming this big phenomena, but God was in the midst of it all working things together for His glory. Phiona gives the glory to God for this amazing gift she has. She says"God has given me a gift to play chess, and I play chess to please Him. Whether I come back with a trophy or not it doesn't matter."I Love a person who is committed to pleasing God!

2) Whatever gift God has given you, work at it to become the best: Phiona gave her all into chess. She studied it, learned from her failures and used whatever opportunity she had to practice. Phiona didn't let her circumstance deter her from her dream. The more she worked at it, the better she became. 1 Timothy 4:14-15 (NKJV) says "Do not neglect the gift that was given to you by prophecy with the laying of hands of the eldership.

Meditate on these things; give yourselves entirely to them, so your progress may be evident to all." Just because God gave you something, doesn't mean you don't have to work at it to make it better. He gives us these gifts in small doses to see what we will do with them. (See the parable of the talents Matthew 25:14-28)

3) Who you have in your corner is important: I love the unity displayed by the children under Robert Katende's team. They were there for each other and wanted to see each other win. Phiona had the help of her teacher to do what she is so great at doing now. In the movie, the teacher turns down the opportunity for a "lucrative" job to focus entirely on the children.

Any time the children were discouraged or when Phiona wanted to give up or even when her mother had doubts, he was right there encouraging them and cheering them on. Now he has added a lot of value, not only to Phiona but also the lives of the other children that he coached. God bless you Mr Katende!

4) Never Give up, fight for the dream you believe in: No matter what situation you are in, God has a plan and a purpose for your life. Because your life "isn't" looking up right now, does not mean you are not on your way to your destiny. Trust God, He has placed so much on the inside of every one of us, and you matter! God has not forgotten about you.

The Reviews

" If there is anyone out there capable of remaining unmoved by this true-life triumph-of-the-underdog sports story, I don't think I want to meet that person." - A.O Scott for the NYTimes

" Uplifting entertainment that the whole family can enjoy." - Sandy Schaefer for Screen Rant

" Remarkable performances from Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo." - Erik Davis for Fandango

I hope you take time out to watch this incredible movie and be encouraged by Phiona's story. Also see why Queen of Katwe is a Movie with a Message. To learn more about Phiona and the work she is a part of in Uganda, visit

Have a blessed day! Share your thoughts below!

Picture Cred: Disney's Instagram page for Queen of Katwe the movie.

Todd Williamson/ Getty Images

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