Let’s play a game. Let’s guess how many reviewers will use the word ‘inspirational’ when describing Queen of Katwe. The first trailer avoids the word, but it’s putting it right on the tip of your tongue with the swelling music and the numerous snippets of pep talks. My guess is that the word will sneak into pretty much all of them, and it will have been planted there very purposefully by the filmmakers.
The movie is based on the ESPN article and book “The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster”, which was optioned to parent company Disney. They went after some big guns for the adaptation, getting Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo for the adult roles and landing Mira Nair as the director.
However, newcomer Madina Nalwanga was entrusted to carry the film as the young chess prodigy, and by newcomer, I mean that this is her first credited role. That’s a gamble, for sure, but one that the marketing power of Disney can easily overcome.
All the encouraging pats on the back that fill this trailer minimizes the fact that the movie will revolve around chess, which is about as fun cinematically as all the math movies we’ve been getting lately. The ace up Disney’s sleeve is that they can pivot to marketing the movie as a faith-based story if the chess stuff doesn’t catch on. The young girl’s journey is intimately connected to her faith, having learned the game at the Agape Sanctuary Ministries.
My guess is that the pivot won’t be necessary, though, because Nair and company should be able to make a good film out of this true story. It’s got all the building blocks for a crowd-pleaser, and that’s exactly how Disney is pitching it to audiences.
Queen of Katwe is directed by Mira Nair and stars Madina Nalwanga, Lupita Nyong’o, and David Oyelowo. It will be released in the U.S. on September 23rd, 2016 and in the U.K. on October 21st, 2016. For international release dates, click here.
Do you think Queen of Katwe will be embraced by a wide audience? Let us know in the comments!
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