Queen of Katwe – “Checkmate”

Living in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle for 10-year-old Phiona (Madina Nalwanga) and her family. Her world changes one day when she meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a missionary who teaches children how to play chess.

Phiona becomes fascinated with the game and soon becomes a top player under Katende’s guidance. Her success in local competitions and tournaments opens the door to a bright future and a golden chance to escape from a life of poverty.


“Jade (Guest Reviewer)” – This review has been difficult for me to write. Not because it wasn’t a good movie, it is. But because it brings up so much more than just a good movie.

At the moment of watching the movie it hit me in my gut. A beautiful Cinderella tale set in Uganda in the slum of Katwe, even better its based on a true story. This movie follows Phiona a chess prodigy that learns to play before she learns to read, indeed she learns to read so that she can read chess books. It follows her through the hardships without the rose tinted goggles that can easily overcome a Disney movie and yet paints a beautiful and hard picture of people who live in Uganda without degrading them to the American stereotypes of ‘Africa’.

The story takes you into the heart of Katwe in such a way that if you feel nothing during the movie, you have a heart of stone. Luckily for us, we had a bit of an interval when the movie stopped unexpectedly and we could all catch our breath before the tears started to roll.

A week later as I write this review what this movie did, beyond the heartfelt tears and love I felt for the characters as per any Disney movie; what still sits with me is the abject poverty that people experience on a daily basis. And how such a small thing, to you and me, like playing chess can really create a support group and allow for so much more in life. So if this movie hits you as much as it did me you can donate to the cause here: http://www.queenofkatwe.com/ or to one of the many causes just like this one in your community and in South Africa.


I almost want to say well done to Disney for producing a proudly Ugandan film like this, and yet I also want to say, “What has taken you so long???” These are the stories that we need to be seeing. In a time and place where students and priests are being shot at in the streets fighting for quality, decolonised education, these are the stories that need to be shared to be seen and celebrated in fighting with everything you have to achieve your goals. Be you a child prodigy, a priest trying to protect scared students or a mother selling her belongings so that her daughter can read late into the night. 8/10

Let us have your thoughts.

If you are interested in being a guest reviewer, like JADE, for Big Screen Hooligans contact us on bigscreenhooligans@gmail.com.

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