The first full trailer is embedded below; the poster above.
Disney has slotted Mira Nair’s drama “Queen of Katwe” for a September 23 theatrical premiere in the USA. It will open in a limited release to start, and then expand it a week later on September 30, to other cities around the country.
Lupita Nyong’o co-stars in the film which is based on “The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster,” by author Tim Crothers, which tells the true story of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, also known as “The Queen of Katwe.”
The film’s official synopsis reads: 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.
Joining Nyong’o in “Katwe” is newcomer Madina Nalwanga, who plays Phiona Mutesi in the highest profile feature film project to come to Uganda since 2006’s “The Last King of Scotland.”
Nyongo plays Phiona’s mother, Harriet Mutesi.
David Oyelowo also co-stars.
Nair directs from a screenplay penned by William Wheeler.
The film is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher (“The Darjeeling Limited”) and John Carls (“Where the Wild Things Are”), with Will Weiske and Troy Buder serving as executive producers.
“Katwe” was filmed in the spring of last year, so I fully expected a 2016 premiere; although I expected Disney would give it a film festival circuit run to start, in order to build some momentum going into the film’s theatrical release later in the fall, if not earlier. That could still happen; high profile film festivals like Venice and Toronto would be perfect world premieres for it.
It’s a film that’s on my 2017 Oscar potentials list. There could be nominations for Nyong’o, Oyelowo, and the star of the film, Nalwanga, in what could be a role that gets her the same kind of attention that Abraham Attah received for “Beasts of No Nation” this year, and Quvenzhané Wallis received for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” in 2012.
Below is the first trailer for the upcoming film.