Starring: David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga, Ntare Mwine, Maurice Kirya, Charity Rose
OUR RATING: ★★★★☆
Story: Bio-drama directed by Mira Nair based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) who was raised in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda by her sing mother Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o). When Phiona meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Phiona is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential.
Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed. As Phiona begins to succeed in local chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments and her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family by becoming a world chess champion.
Verdict: A lovely inspiring story with an amazing cast. This is one of those uplifting intelligent movies that you really can’t fault too much, and it’s a welcome break from all the blockbusters movies. It is cliched but even that is handled well as it offers some powerful lessons about life, perseverance and success against all odds.
Best Quotes (Total Quotes: 15)
Phiona: Mama, can you do big things from such a small place?
Harriet: Don’t think about such things.
Phiona: Why not?
Harriet: You will be disappointed.
Neighbor: Hey, Phiona, how is your life?
Phiona: It is fine.
[spying through a whole in a wall as the children take out a chess board to play]
Robert Katende: Young girl, come inside. What is your name?
[to one of the young girls in his class]
Robert Katende: Could you please show Phiona how to move the pieces?
[showing Phiona how to play chess]
Young Girl: In chess the small one can become the big one.
Robert Katende: Chess helps us solve all problems.
Robert Katende: [referring to chess] It teaches us to make a plan. Use your minds and you will all find safety.
[as Phiona is playing chess with one of the boys]
Boy #1: Why are you letting her win?
Boy #2: I’m not letting her!
Robert Katende: [to Phiona] You can see eight moves ahead?
Robert Katende: You can be the best in all of Uganda.
Phiona: How can I become the champion?
Robert Katende: [to Phiona] Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place you belong. You belong where you believe you belong. Where is that for you?
[playing against her opponent in a chess championship game]
Chess Opponent: None of your sneak attacks. This is not the ghetto.
[he shakes her hand then wipes it on the table cloth]
Phiona: I don’t need to sneak. Checkmate.
Robert Katende: [to Harriet] Your children are blessed because they have a mother who never give up on them.
Harriet: Are you my daughter?
Phiona: Yes, mama, I am.
Phiona: Coach, you told us to make a plan but I fear things will never change.
Robert Katende: What matters is when you reset the pieces and play a game.
Total Quotes: 15