Mira Nair rediscover the street energy of Salaam Bombay with this colourful crowd pleaser about Phiona, a teenager from the Katwe slum of Kampala who rises against all the odds to become a champion.
Based on a true story, Nair avoids the usual cliches of the underdog movie and strikes a beautiful balance, aided by masterful performances of their kind from David Oyelowo as Robert, the inspirational teacher, and Lupita Nyong’o as the girl’s protective mother, Harriet.
Nair never sugarcoats the environment, smuggling in child prostitution, poverty, pregnancy and exploitation among the generally upbeat arcs. A cynical heart might not be swayed, but this seems to me to be just the ticket for a family film – even the chess looks cool.
A positive, unpreachy African story, with heart and soul and a social conscience is rare, especially one that might find a large international audience, so I wish Queen of Katwe only good things. I enjoyed it immensely.