‘Queen of Katwe’ teaser excites festivalgoers at Amakula

POLLY KAMUKAMA & ANDREW KAGGWA

It’s already tipped to be the biggest film out of Uganda since The Last King of Scotland.

And last Friday, the anticipation for Queen of Katwe reached fever pitch in Kampala after a 15-minute teaser from the upcoming Hollywood film about Ugandan chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi, was screened at the Amakula International Film Festival.

The film's first promotional still features Lupita Nyong'o and Madina Nalwanga in an emotional mother-daughter embrace

The film’s first promotional still features Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga in an emotional mother-daughter embrace

The film’s director, Mira Nair, surprised an audience of about 60 people during her master class when she decided to show the first 15 minutes of the hotly-anticipated biopic.

The film, based upon a book of the same title by American journalist Tim Crothers and starring Oscar-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o, has effectively been kept under the radar since production wrapped in Kampala mid last year.

The rather aesthetic clip lays a solid premise for the compelling narrative by introducing the film’s principle cast including Nyong’o, who plays Mutesi’s mum Harriet, British actor David Oyelewo (coach Katende) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga who plays Mutesi.

Mira.

Mira Nair (R) discussing ‘Queen of Katwe’ with Maisha Film Lab’s Artistic Director Aida Mbowa during the masterclass at Amakula film festival in Kampala last week.

The video opens in a market with Coach Katende approaching and pleading with Harriet to give him Mutesi and her brother for a chess tournament at Kings College Buddo.

The clip then takes a somber twist once the poor kids from Katwe slum arrive at the affluent Buddo school as they fail to fit in so much that they abandon the beds they are provided with to sleep on the cold floor.

“We were careful while casting these people, for instance, we didn’t want children from Katende’s Outreach (chess programme) to be portrayed by rich kids,” Nair said of her decision to cast street kids and non-actors in most of the supporting roles.

The film is based upon a book of the same title by American journalist Tim Crothers

The film is based upon a book of the same title by American journalist Tim Crothers

Produced by Disney, Queen of Katwe follows the incredible journey of 23-year-old Mutesi from a penniless slumdog to a world chess champion.

The film’s first promotional still, featuring Nyong’o and Nalwoga in an emotional embrace, was released by Disney early this year and instantly went viral with millions of film lovers from across the world sharing it online.

It is not yet known whether Uganda will get the honour of hosting the film’s first screening although Nair hinted at the possibility of an extensive local promotional campaign ahead of the September premiere.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com, kaggwandre@gmail.com

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The Amakula International Film Festival is presented by
Bayimba Cultural Foundation in partnership with The DOEN Foundation, Africalia, Kampala Film School and the Uganda Museum.