Review of the week
Film: Queen of Katwe
Cast: Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelwayo, Lupito Nyong’o
Director: Mira Nair
Classification: 7 PGP
Reviewer: Peter Feldman
‘Queen of Katwe’ is one of those true life, feel-good films that give you a warm glow long after the images have vanished from the screen.
I love movies about courageous underdogs who become winners and this story will mesmerise you on all levels. It demonstrates in great detail how the human spirit can overcome severe obstacles and triumph in the end.
The simple story is about a young, uneducated girl from the slums of Katwe, Uganda, who supported her single mother by selling maize on the streets. Then one day she meets her saviour, a part-time teacher, who teaches her to play chess and, thanks to the love and strength of her vibrant community, becomes a chess champion.
Based on a true story, ‘Queen of Katwe’ doesn’t try to seduce its audience with an overly rosy outlook. The girl, Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), is poor and often hungry and not everyone supports her dreams. It’s an ugly world, not far removed from the squatter camps and informal settlements that dot the South African landscape.
Director Mira Nair’s production is not about Third World hopelessness, or white saviours arriving from the West to lend a hand, either. It’s about Africans making a difference in Africa and how it affects the life of one little girl.
Newcomer Madina Nalwanga as Phiona is superb. She oozes a winning personality, which is quiet at first, but slowly begins to bubble with confidence, and her stubborn determination to succeed is appealing.
Overshadowing her, though, are her co-stars. Her mother (another strong performance by Lupito Nyong’o), a single, hard-working parent who is suspicious of the stranger who wants to help Phiona, and David Oyelwayo as her chess teacher who sees a bright future for the girl but needs to convince her mother.
The script may be a little flat, but Nair imbues the film with tons of energy and joy, freshness and vivacity. Nair, who made the wonderful ‘Mississippi Masala’ and ‘Monsoon Wedding’, gives the audience the sounds, smells and colours of the continent and makes it live.
The script does pose some challenges: it fails to fully explain why the teenage Phiona and her mother grow apart at one stage and at times its difficult to get inside the teenager’s head to understand her thinking. How does she manage to pull off some complicated chess moves and what does winning really mean to her, apart from receiving trophies?
Where ‘Queen of Katwe’ scores is how it manages to celebrate both female independence and intellectual achievement in a peaceful, functioning country.
It also towers above other superficially similar productions, because it has richness, an unpredictability and inspirational and uplifting facets to its make-up.
The film is highly recommended.
Other Releases (synopsis)
CAST: Kristen Wiig, Zach Galifianakis, Kate McKinnon, Jason Sudeikis, Owen Wilson and Leslie Jones
DIRECTOR: Jared Hess
In this action comedy inspired by true events, directed by Jared Hess (‘Napoleon Dynamite’; ‘Nacho Libre’), David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis) discovers the true meaning of adventure far beyond his wildest dreams. He is an uncomplicated man stuck in a monotonous life.
Day in and day out he drives an armoured vehicle, transporting millions of other people’s money with no escape in sight. The only glimmer of excitement is his flirtatious work crush Kelly Campbell (Kristen Wiig) who soon lures him into the scheme of a lifetime.
Along with a group of half-brained criminals led by Steve Chambers (Owen Wilson) and an absurdly faulted heist plan, David manages the impossible and makes off with $17 million in cash…only problem is he foolishly hands the money over to this wild group of double crossers and has been set up to take the fall.
With the bandits blowing the millions on lavish and ridiculous luxuries, they leave behind a glaring trail of evidence. Now on the lam and in over his head, David must dodge the authorities, evade a hilarious hit man, Mike McKinney (Jason Sudeikis), and try to turn the tables on the ones he trusted most.
FILM: DON’T BREATHE
CAST: Daniel Zovatto, Jane Levy, Stephen Lang
DIRECTOR: Fede Alvarez
Rocky, a teenage delinquent, wants to run away from her parents with her daughter and boyfriend, Money. In an attempt to raise cash for their new life, the young thieves plot to burgle a wealthy blind war veteran, who is believed to have a safe in his basement. However, their “foolproof” heist unravels in the most heinous of ways.