GAME on. Chess protégée Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) is sweeping the board in the film Queen of Katwe, released at cinemas yesterday
(Friday 21 October).
Based on a true story, the film depicts the life of nine-year-old Phiona and her family in the slums of Katwe, Uganda. Education is far from reach and to make ends meet the family sells vegetables and maize on the streets.
Phiona’s mother, Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o), is a resilient woman who will do whatever it takes to care for her children. She dreams of giving them a better life, but reality makes it seem impossible.
Football coach Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), though, has other hopes for the children of Katwe. Through a faith-based outreach programme, he teaches the children chess in a makeshift church. He believes that the game can help them become sharper in their thinking, innovative and creative – skills that can prepare them for education and later life.
One day, Phiona follows her brother Brian (Martin Kabanza) to church and watches the other children play chess. She is fascinated. When Robert invites her inside, Phiona is reluctant, but keen to learn the rules of game. She realises that this could be her pathway to the life she has always dreamt of.
Robert quickly realises Phiona’s natural ability for chess and begins to nurture it. Harriet, though, isn’t having any of it. She thinks Phiona and Brian are gambling, and drags them out of the chess club.
Robert tries to convince Harriet that if Phiona starts playing competitively alongside the other children, it could be the key to her education. After much persuasion, Harriet gives in.
Robert raises money for the children to compete in the National Schools Chess Championship. Phiona outsmarts other students and goes on to become Uganda’s junior champion. She hopes to compete in championships overseas.
But as life at home becomes uncertain, she questions whether her dreams can outweigh her reality.
Robert encourages Phiona: ‘You belong where you believe you belong.’ Away from the screen, it can sometimes feel as though we’re playing a losing game. Even when we follow the rules, things do not go to plan. Problems and obstacles can leave us feeling defeated and helpless. We question whether we should even hope for a new reality. But we don’t have to feel that way. Faced with challenge after challenge, some of them life-threatening, Bible writer Paul drew up a winning strategy: ‘I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which
God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:14 New International Version).
Whatever we are now going through is not the end result. The mistakes we make do not rule us out of contention. God sent his Son,
Jesus, to die for our wrongdoing. We can have a better future. If we admit our mistakes, ask forgiveness for the wrong moves we’ve made and commit ourselves to following the game plan of Jesus, we will receive the prize of eternal life.
The War Cry 22 October 2016
The War Cry
The War Cry
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