Megan’s Movie Night: Queen of Katwe

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, August 10th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Megan Basham with a suggestion for your weekend family movie night.

MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: Disney films can be as dicey as any other studio’s these days, but in 2016 the Mouse House released a gem of a PG family movie. It not only tells a great, true story with superb production values, it also depicts Christian life in an unusually accurate and positive way.

AUDIO: [Music] Lord bless the food we are going to eat, amen.

Born in 1996 in the Katwe district of Kampala, in one of Uganda’s poorest slums, Phiona Mutesi doesn’t appear to have much to hope for in life. Her father died when she was 3, leaving her, her mother, and her siblings trying to eke out a living selling corn in the streets. The possibility of an education, not to mention a real home with running water, is so distant it doesn’t even qualify as a pipe dream for the illiterate Mutesi children.

AUDIO: Do you think God wants bad fortune for us…I don’t think God cares about us one way or the other.

Then Phiona and her brother cross paths with Christian chess coach, Robert Katende, wonderfully played by Daniel Oyelowo. He discovers that the so-called “slum” kids of Katwe identify powerfully with the game of chess. And Phiona, in particular, has the kind of strategic mind that could make her a champion.

AUDIO: On my way to the bus yesterday, I saw a skinny dog…You see, these children they have nice clothes, comfortable beds…but you are running for your lives, eh. Come we pray. Dear Father, we thank for this opportunity, help us to be great today. Amen. 

While unquestionably uplifting, The Queen of Katwe is not your average, sanitized, feel-good movie. The film was shot on location in Uganda with Ugandan children playing many of the roles. And Uganda extras fill out the crowded sets. This not only gives the entire production an air of authenticity—not to mention some of the most appealing performances I’ve ever seen from child actors—it introduces younger viewers to age-appropriate realism about what life is like in the developing world.

AUDIO: The wound goes from here to the bone, I can stitch him, but we have no more pain medicine and will not for another day…You stitch him. No, mama! [screaming] 

Along with depicting poverty, there are truthful inferences that won’t register on most children, but will be clear enough to adults and teens.

AUDIO: If I were you, I’d find a man…Too superior are we? Better than all of us?…I beg you please for my children.

AUDIO: Why are you dressed like a girl selling herself? Don’t look if you don’t like what you see. I can look away, but God still sees what you do.

All of this accuracy makes Phiona’s victories over her background, her opponents, and even herself, all the more moving. I’d challenge anyone not to cheer along with the citizens of Katwe as the movie draws to a close.

AUDIO: Welcome home Miss Uganda of Chess…Chess is a game of fighting…I’m sure we’ll be hearing from these Katwe fighters very soon. 

Best of all, however, is the opportunity The Queen of Katwe provides for a real life lesson in the miraculous things God can achieve through all of us when we surrender our will to His.

In a recent piece for, the real Robert Katende wrote of how the Lord short-circuited the plans he’d originally had for his life in order to show the children of Kampala that they do have a heavenly Father who cares about them. He wrote—quote—“God gave me a purpose, and it was only after I chased after the things I thought I wanted, things for me, that I saw what that purpose was. To help others, too; as the Bible says, to lay down my life—my desires—for others. That’s what Jesus did for me.”

The movie that grew out of his ministry will stir in believers young and old a desire to go and do likewise.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.

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