Queen of Katwe (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
January 14, 2017 by Dennis Amith
Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” is an inspirational film but also a commercial Disney film that provides a viewpoint of life outside of the United States and a story so full of hope but also showing the challenges that the poor in Uganda face on a daily basis and how one man has sacrificed a lot in order to help the children in poverty, find meaning in their lives and also bring out the potential they have within. And a young girl who came from a life of poverty, wanting to do better for herself. “Queen of Katwe” is recommended!
TITLE: Queen of Katwe
FILM RELEASE: 2016
DURATION: 124 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, (2:39:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
RATED: PG (For Thematic Elements, An Accident Scene and Some Suggestive Material)
RELEASE DATE: January 31, 2017
Based on the ESPN Magazine Article by Tim Crothers
Directed by Mira Nair
Screenplay by William Wheeler
Produced by John B. Carls, Lydia Dean Pitcher
Executive Producer: Troy Buder, Connor Schell, Dan Silver, Will Weiske
Music by Alex Heffes
Cinematography by Sean Bobbitt
Edited by Barry Alexander Brown
Casting by Dinaz Stafford
Production Design by Stephanie Carroll
Art Direction by Shane Bunce, Jonathan Hely-Hutchinson, Fritz Joubert, Emilia Roux
Set Decoration by Set Buyer, Melinda Launspach, Jeanette Scott
Costume Design by Mobolaji Dawodu
Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi
David Oyelowo as Robert Katende
Lupita Nygong’o as Nakku Harriet
Martin Kabanza as Mugabi Brian
Taryn Kyaze as Night
Ivan Jacobo as Young Richard
Nicolas Levesque as Older Richard
Ronald Ssemaganda as Ivan
Ethan Nazario Lubega as Benjamin
Nikita Waligwa as Gloria
Edgar Kanyike as Joseph
Esther Tebandeke as Sara Katende
Hope Katende as Hope Katende
Philip Luswata as Minister Aloysius
Peter Odeke as Enoch Barumba
“Queen of Katwe” is based on the vibrant true story of a young girl (Madina Nalwanga) from the streets of Uganda whose world changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. It is a remarkable story of perseverance against all odds that will leave viewers feeling humbled and inspired. According to director Mira Nair, “The triumph of the human spirit is not to weep for what we don’t have but to focus on what we do have and allow that to take us to a place we never imagined possible.”
In 2016, the American biographical sports drama film “Queen of Katwe” from director Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”, “The Namesake”, “New York, I Love You”) and screenwriter William Wheeler (“The Hoax”, “Ray Donovan”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”) was released in theaters.
Based on Tim Crothers’ ESPN Magazine 2012 article, the film was optioned by Walt Disney Pictures and the project was developed by Tendo Nagenda, a Walt Disney Studios senior creative executive who lived in the United States but his father, who was from Uganda, moved the family to Nagenda at the age of 12.
Passionate about the film’s protagonist and true story, Nagenda personally selected filmmaker Mira Nair at her home in Uganda. And from there, Nair and Wheeler would begin to craft an inspirational story on the true life of Phiona Mutesi.
And now, the Blu-ray release of “Queen of Katwe” will be available in January 2017.
The film stars Lupita Nyong’o (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, “The Jungle Book”, “Non-Stop”, “12 Years a Slave”), Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Martin Kabanza, Taryn Kyaze and more.
The film revolves around 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (portrayed by Madina Nalwanga) who lives with her single mother Nakku Harriet (portrayed by Lupita Nyong’o) and her siblings, which includes her older sister Night (portrayed by Taryn Kyaze) and her brother Mugabi Brian (portrayed by Martin Kabanza).
Phiona and her family lives in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda. And the family struggles to survive. She has never went to school and her mother expects the children to earn money to help them pay for rent and earn money for food.
Meanwhile, Robert Katende (portrayed by David Oyelowo) is trying to find an engineering job but for now, he works at a missionary program helping children, as a soccer coach and teaching the children (which he calls “Pioneers”) on how to play chess.
Brian often watches Robert coaching the kids on how to play soccer and he tries to show him and his friend that playing chess, he used his wits to win money. And immediately, Brian is interested in wanting to play.
Seeing this, Phiona would go to the Pioneers building and watch the children play chess.
Robert sees Phiona watching and he encourages her to come and join the children. But she is immediately bullied by the kids who tease her of being smelly and dirty.
As Robert and the other kids teach Phiona on how to play chess, he sees a job opening for an engineer position and knows that this job will be a great paying job for he and his family if he gets it.
As Phiona and her brother Brian play the game, she starts to learn from playing against him, even though she loses. As she continues to practice, she starts to beat the other children.
When an Uganda Chess Federation chess competition is coming up, which allows chess players from various schools to compete. Robert tries to get his children to participate in the competition by meeting with the school chairman. As the chairman would not allow the children to compete, because they don’t go to school and can’t afford to pay the entrance fee. But when Robert tells the chairman that if he allows his children to raise money to participate in the chess competition, they can participate.
So, Robert participates in soccer matches in order to make money for the children’s entrance fees.
But when Phiona and Brian’s mother finds out that they are spending time with Robert, she is worried that Robert may be a gambler. But Robert, tries to convince Harriet that Phiona is very intelligent and Brian has determination that they have the opportunity to go to the best school if they excel in chess.
And so, the Sports Ministry Outreach program get to participate in their first major chess tournament but immediately the kids are taken back when they see a different side of Uganda. Children dressed in uniforms, going to fine establishments for school and for the first time, having to learn about eating etiquette and eating with eating utensils and seeing the difference between poor and the rich.
But what happens when the children take part in their first major chess tournament? And how will things fare for Phiona and Brian?
“Queen of Katwe” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). Featuring close-ups with very good detail, the film looks very good as outdoor scenes are vibrant and interior scenes are well-lit. With a colorful pallet and wonderful detail, “Queen of Katwe” looks wonderful on Blu-ray.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Queen of Katwe” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Description Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks. The film features crystal-clear dialogue and music. Surround channels are primarily for ambiance.
Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.
“Queen of Katwe” comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by director Mira Nair.
- Queen of Katwe: Their Story – (29:37) Behind-the-Scenes of the making of “Queen of Katwe” and the real people that inspired the characters.
- A Fork, A Spoon & A Knight – (13:14) A short film by Mira Nair about the life of Robert Katende.
- In the Studio with Alicia Keys – (6:26) Behind-the-scenes with Alicia Keys on the recording of of “Back to Life”.
- Alicia Keys “Back to Life” Lyric Video – Sing along to Alicia Keys “Back to Life”.
- Young Cardamom & Hab “#1 Spice” Music Video – The Ugandan hip hop duo’s music video directed by Mira Nair.
- Deleted Scenes – Featuring eight deleted scenes and optional introductions by director Mira Nair.
“Queen of Katwe” comes with a slipcover and a Disney Movie Rewards code.
“Queen of Katwe” is a Disney film in giving audiences a story of an underdog who came from the slums of Uganda to become a chess phenom.
While the film seems simple, filmmaker Mira Nair, who has lived in Uganda, gives viewers the opportunity to see Uganda through the characters of coach/mentor Robert Katende and the young and intelligent chess phenom, Phiona Mutesi.
From Robert’s storyline, we get to see how this young man grew up living in the bushes, losing his mother and being poor to become educated, head of his IT class and has the potential of becoming a successful engineer. But yet, he knows that with his teaching and mentoring, he is helping children who grew up in the slum with the opportunity to be something better.
Not by teaching soccer, but teaching chess and when he discovers Phiona, a 10-year-old who not only picks up quickly on how to play chess, but sees how she strategizes and sees ahead of how she can win the game of chess against her competitors. She is intelligent and Robert feels he can help her, find her true potential.
The film is inspirational but it’s also a fascinating look at life of these children who live in the slums, the dangers they face, but also what happens when the children are taken out of their environment and see how people in Uganda, who go to school, have money, are living. And how they have culture shock but also seeing for the first time, the difference between the poor and the rich.
But while Phiomina is able to accomplish a lot in her young age, her story is still continuing as she just graduated and prepares herself for college. And one can only hope that life for Phiomina continues to get better and that she is able to achieve her goals, not just for the game of chess but also in life and providing a good life with her and the family.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is fantastic. Lossless audio is primarily dialogue and music-driven. While special features are numerous with wonderful and insightful featurettes, audio commentary, music videos and more.
Overall, Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” is an inspirational film but also a commercial Disney film that provides a viewpoint of life outside of the United States and a story so full of hope but also showing the challenges that the poor in Uganda face on a daily basis and how one man has sacrificed a lot in order to help the children in poverty, find meaning in their lives and also bring out the potential they have within. And a young girl who came from a life of poverty, wanting to do better for herself.
“Queen of Katwe” is recommended!
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