Lupita Nyong'o, David Oyelowo and Madina Nalwanga Bring Chess Prodigy's Inspirational Story to Life in Queen of Katwe Trailer

Disney film reveals Phiona Mutesi's beginnings

By Zach Johnson May 10, 2016 4:03 PMTags

After a summer of blockbusters, Queen of Katwe's reign will begin.

Produced by Walt Disney Pictures and ESPN Films, Queen of Katwe (in theaters Sept. 23) tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), a 10-year-old girl prodigy from Uganda. One day, while selling corn on the street to help her family make ends meet, she meets a man named Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local kids how to play chess.

It doesn't take long for Phiona to fall in love with the game. Recognizing her natural aptitude for chess, Robert starts mentoring the pre-teen. Initially, Phiona's mother, Harriet Mutesi (Lupita Nyong'o), is hesitant to encourage her, as she fears that her daughter will be disappointed. But, as Phiona continues to succeed in local chess competitions, Robert teaches her to read and write. Harriet eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and helps Phiona fulfill her potential and escape a life of poverty.

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Mira Nair directed the film from a script by William Wheeler.

Based on Tim Crothers' book The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster (expanded from an ESPN the Magazine article), the drama was filmed entirely on location in South Africa and Uganda. "It was so great to go back home. I'm from East Africa. I'm from Kenya, which is just next door to Uganda," Nyong'o said at the D23 Expo last year. "This is a story about the commitment to a dream even in the most discouraging of situations. The slum of Katwe is a very difficult place to live, but you see these people living there with dignity and making it day by day. And so to go there and to have that environment to work from really did sober us and enliven us."

Queen of Katwe is in theaters Sept. 23.

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