‘Queen of Katwe’s David Oyelowo on How Chess Is a Metaphor for Life

     September 21, 2016

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Opening this weekend — after playing the Toronto International Film Festival — is director Mira Nair’s (Monsoon Wedding) adaptation of the Tim Crothers‘ book of the same name, Queen of Katwe. Scripted by William Wheeler, the film is based on the inspirational true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda who, after being introduced to the game of chess, pursues a dream of becoming an international chess champion. Lupita Nyong’o plays the girl’s protective mother and David Oyelowo plays her chess teacher. For more on the film, watch the trailer and read Matt’s review.

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Image via Disney

While at TIFF I was able to land an exclusive video interview with David Oyelowo. He talked about how chess is a metaphor for life, what you need to be a grandmaster, memorable moments from filming, director Julius Onah’s God Particle, and Nash Edgerton’s upcoming movie. Check out what he had to say in the interview above and below you’ll find the official synopsis.


Here’s the official synopsis for Queen of Katwe:

“Queen of Katwe” is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. Directed by Mira Nair from a screenplay by William Wheeler based on the book by Tim Crothers, “Queen of Katwe” is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher and John Carls with Will Weiske and Troy Buder serving as executive producers. The film stars Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo, Oscar winner and Tony Award nominee Lupita Nyong’o and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.

 

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Image via Disney

For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga) and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Chess requires a good deal of concentration, strategic thinking and risk taking, all skills which are applicable in everyday life, and Katende hopes to empower youth with the game. Phiona is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential. Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed. As Phiona begins to succeed in local chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments, but breaks away from her family to focus on her own life. Her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family.

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