This was another film watched out of lack of choice while on holiday, and actually I was pleasantly surprised. I’d never even seen this film advertised, much less thought that I would enjoy a film about a Ugandan chess player.
Reluctantly I stuck this film on while chilling out, thinking that this would be ok for some background noise, but I was really quickly drawn in.
This film follows the story of young Phiona who lives in the slums of Katwe in Kampala. She finds that she has a flair for chess when she is taught how to play by Robert, who is running a missionary programme. Phiona’s facination with the game grows and she quickly becomes the top player within her group. Moving on to win local, regional and national events. As she becomes more educated and is introduced to a world outside of the poverty she has grown up with, she needs to learn more than chess to be able to survive the changing world around her.
Phiona aspires to become a chess master and get her family out of the poverty that they live in.
I found this film really surprising as a Disney movie as this is far from they usual style, and really demonstrates the absolute determination that this girl had to achieve.
The characterisation was superb and captured the family relationship amazingly. It also showed the true struggles and issues faced in this area. While I have never been to Uganda, this did echo visits that’s I have had to Kenya, with poorer families selling what little they can scrape together to survive, along with the pressures this puts on families and friends.
It also demonstrates the good things that can come of educating and investing time in people.
What I really liked about this film, was that the real people were involved in the writing of the film and were introduced at the end so the viewer can see what the character looked like compared to the real life person, also a succinct bio for each of them to bring the viewer up to date on where they have got to after the events shown in the movie.
This film is vibrant and while unbelievable fairly fast paced for a film about chess. There are not many films which make me feel empathetic towards the characters, but this one did. I think that this is down to the true characters being displayed. Phiona’s mother is shown as a hard working and proud women, who has her own moral standards and while not always saying the right thing, is actually trying to the best for her children. This is a far stretch from the Hollywood portrayals of real life stories where characters are either really good or rotten to the core and was a refreshing change.
If like me you have never even heard of this film, don’t dismiss it just based on the subject, as you will be missing a sturdy afternoons watching.