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Review: Mira Nair’s ‘Queen of Katwe’ Is Disneyfied Black Girl Magic

September 23, 2016

Some of the most ignored stories in the film industry are those of women and girls of the African Diaspora. Though we go through cycles where Hollywood pushes out a plethora of stories about people of color for a set amount of time, films like “Eve’s Bayou”, “Pariah”, and “Beasts of the Southern Wild” are far and few in between. This year, Disney has sought to go against the grain to bring to us the story of 20-year-old Ugandan master chess player, Phiona Mutesi, in Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe”. A rarity for a mainstream Hollywood film, “Queen of Katwe” has an all-Black cast and (most importantly) not a white savior in sight.

“Queen of Katwe” is an extraordinary story of a young woman from the slums of Uganda. Phiona beat all odds by learning and mastering one of the most strategically challenging games in existence and used this incredible skill to better herself and her family’s circumstances. The film starts off promisingly enough; veteran filmmaker Mira Nair is a master at bringing rich settings to life, with succulent cinematography and stunning lighting; an homage perhaps to one of her earlier films, “Mississippi Masala” starring Denzel Washington. We meet Phiona (played charmingly by Ugandan dancer Madina Nalwanga), in 2012 as she sets out to compete in the National Junior Chess Championship in Uganda.

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Image: Disney