Queen of Katwe

Directed by Mira Nair

Zambia, 2016

HOME, 26 October 2016

Queen of Katwe

Though you know where the film is heading from the get-go, it is alright, it’s a journey you want to take.

Inspirational, happy and heartfelt, sentimental and sometimes sad, feel-good: the film ticks all these boxes.

For the protagonist of Nabokov’s The Defense, there is a ‘before’ and an’ after’ to his life – and this is so for Fiona too. Her talent for chess acts as a catalyst in her life. She comes from the slums of Uganda, a downbeaten child, and we see her poring over a well-thumbed copy of Kasparov’s The Test of Time, escaping into a purer, a just world.

There are some authentic chess positions –  in one, the sacrifice of a queen leads to a sweet smothered mate – and a few implausible incidents. One feels that silence would always reign at a chess tournament, it would be bad etiquette for it to be otherwise (you should not disturb your opponent while they are thinking). But there is no dramatic mileage in silence, and so…

What the film achieves above all else is to show the value of chess as a force in fostering social mobility, which is why charities such as Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC), which works in the UK, must be supported.