Based on the stunning true story, Disney‘s Queen of Katwe follows 10-year old Phiona Mutesi of the Katwe slums in Kampala, Uganda. Unable to afford an education, Phiona sells corn at the market to help her widowed mother provide for herself and her three siblings. Everything changes for Phiona when she meets missionary Robert Katende, who teaches her the game of chess. Director Mira Nair‘s lush and beautiful film brings Phinoa’s story to life with David Oyelowo starring as Robert Katende, Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o as Phiona’s determined mother, Nakku Harriet and newcomer Madina Nalwanga as Phinoa. Here are 5 reasons why Queen of Katwe is one of Disney’s best feminist films.
1. Queen of Katwe is a story of all-encompassing feminism.
For a major studio film, Queen of Katwe should be praised for presenting a story of an impoverished Ugandan girl who learns to thrive in her homeland of Uganda. Too often in the entertainment industry, feminism seems to be regulated to those who have some sort of privileges, whether it be their whiteness or social economic position. Queen of Katwe flips that idea on its head.
2. The film shows the importance of opportunity.
Education is constantly heralded as the best way to better one’s circumstances. However, what Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe impresses upon the viewer, is the importance of having that opportunity. There can be no growth or equality without first having the chance to grow and succeed.
3. It’s a film that values confidence in women and girls.
In one of the most moving scenes in the film, David Oyelowo’s character Robert Katende tells a distraught Phiona, “You belong where you believe you belong, sometimes the place you’re used to is not where you belong.” Phinoa’s mother is a product of her circumstances, but in embracing chess, Phiona comes to understand that she can become the master of her own fate (and a Master of chess).
4. There are no passive women in Queen of Katwe.
Phinoa becomes a master chess player because she learns to play the game viciously and assertively. There is no room for passivity when it comes to out strategizing your opponent. Phinoa’s bold approach to chess also begins to manifest itself in other places in her life. As a result, it becomes imperative that she seeks out something bigger and better for herself and for her family.
5. Phiona’s story isn’t a fairytale.
Many Disney films are rife with evil stepmothers and diabolical princes, but Phinoa story is much more gritty and real than anything we’ve seen from Disney as of yet. Uganda is a place where girls are groomed to simply be mothers. The lack of adequate education, housing, medical resources and money are detrimental to impoverished Ugandans and we see time and time again in the film. And yet, despite all of the hardship, Phinona somehow finds it in herself to press forward and continue to shine.
Disney’s Queen of Katwe will be released in select theaters on Friday, September 23rd and will be released widely on Friday, September 30th.