Disney’s Queen of Katwe, now playing in theaters across the United States, is based on the true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, thanks to support from her family and community, gains the confidence and determination to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion.
Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) from a screenplay by William Wheeler (The Hoax) based on the book by Tim Crothers, Queen of Katwe stars Golden Globe® nominee David Oyelowo (Selma), Oscar® winner and Tony Award® nominee Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.
Watch a short feature featuring interviews with team behind Queen of Katwe:
For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga) and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong'o), is determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Her mother eventually realizes that she 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.
The real-life Phiona and Robert were on set during the filming of the movie, providing a source of inspiration and authenticity to the cast and crew.
“It is such a privilege making a film about Katwe in Katwe with the people who are the heartbeat of the original story,” said Nair, who has lived in Uganda for 27 years.
Nalwanga, who is from a neighboring slum of Katwe, brought personal experience and a native point of view to her passionate portrayal of Phiona.
“We were shooting a scene on the street when Madina turned to me and said, ‘This is my story… I’ve been here’,” Nyong’o recalls. “That put things in perspective. I felt very privileged and honored to be able to usher these children though this. I said to them, ‘This is our opportunity to tell the world your story.’ That was a moment when real life and the world of cinema… that line no longer exists.”