If you’re already mourning the conclusion of the Olympics, Disney’s Queen of Katwe has come just in time. Based on a true story, Queen of Katwe follows the life of Ugandan Chess Champion Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) as she discovers the game that will change the way she experiences the world. It is a story of fierce determination, overcoming odds and absolute triumph. Queen of Katwe is sure to move you, entertain you and even spark or reignite your interest in playing chess. Here are a few life lessons from Queen of Katwe.
Phiona, along with her mother and three siblings, resides in Katwe, a slum of Kampala, Uganda. Though impoverished, she finds life consistent and seeks joy in the simplest of offerings. Through curiosity, she discovers a shanty building in which Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) a former soccer player turned missionary is teaching some local kids how to play chess. Katende spots her and invites her in. It is with this invitation her life begins down an entirely different direction.
LIFE LESSONS FROM QUEEN OF KATWE
“In chess, the small can become the big.”
Though all of the kids Katende teaches live in poverty, Phiona seems to be even more deeply entrenched. Initially, the other children tease her, refuse to play with her and communicate she is unwanted. However, Phiona is a fighter and not easily discouraged. Through her own dedication to learning the game, Katende’s compassionate guidance and her natural brilliance, Phiona rises to become the champion of the kid’s club and on to compete in national and international tournaments. Her story is a reminder to the audience that where one begins is not where one has to end. Life direction is also about choice and determination.
“Losses happen for all of us, but what matters is that we reset the pieces and begin again.”
Chess has long been used as a metaphor for life. Additionally, the skills a player acquires while learning the game: strategy, awareness, sacrifice, adjustments, etc. are applicable to daily issues and struggles. As Phiona grows in her skill and win count, her life continues to be plagued with trouble and obstacles. She is constantly required to adjust and readjust to things she does and does not see coming her way. As in chess, life requires us to deal with the problems that sneak up on us. What matters most is how we come back from those losses and that we let the new beginnings define us, not the defeats.
“Sometimes the place you’re used to is not the place you belong.”
We often feel obligated to live with what life has handed us. We can even, mistakenly, feel undeserving of more. Phiona battles with the idea of what she “deserves” and what she witnesses changing in her life. Her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) is supportive of Phiona’s opportunities but skeptical they will lead to much change in the family’s life. She doesn’t want to see her daughter disappointed. Katende serves as a reminder to Phiona that she, in fact, can have more and that just because she is used to a certain way of life doesn’t mean that her circumstances are unable to change. Through her journey with chess, Phiona learns that she has a say in where her life goes. A valuable lesson for us all.
Queen of Katwe is a feel-good movie about growth, acceptance and victory. For chess players and non-players, alike, it will have you sitting on the edge of your seat rooting for Phiona in both life and game.
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QUEEN OF KATWE opens in theaters this Friday, September 23rd!