Disney Movie ‘Queen of Katwe’: A Real-Life Story of God Leading Uganda Girl to Become National Chess Champion Through Sports Outreach Ministry

Queen of Katwe
(Photo : GabboT/Flickr/CC)
Mira Nair and Lupita Nyong'o at the premiere of Queen of Katwe, 2016 Toronto Film Festival

A girl living in slums of Uganda had an encounter with God through an evangelistic Sports Outreach Ministry (SOM) which introduced her to chess. As Phiona Mutesi grew in Jesus, she found that He has gifted her to play chess -- and to be marvelous at the game. She then goes on to become a national champion. This is the real-life story "Queen of Katwe" produced by Disney, where Mutesi is played by actress Lupita Nyong'o.

The movie had a limited release on September 23th, and will be up for theatrical release on September 30th.

Mutesi's father had died with AIDS, and she was raised by a single mother.

When she was 9 years old, she was led to the Sports Outreach chess program in which she initially had no interest. But she continued to attend it as they also served food. One day she unwittingly beat a boy at the game, and came to realize the gift that she had.

Through the SOM, God gave her a church family and a mentor in Robert Katende ( played by David Oyelowo) who runs the SOM. Katende teaches the children lessons of God through chess, one of them being that it was important to reset the chess pieces and play again.

She then went on to win Uganda's junior girls' championship three times. In 2009, she and two other boys from SOM won Africa's International Children's Chess Tournament in Sudan.

"We're actually ecstatic because we believe [the movie] is going to be a tremendous bridge between the faith-based approach to restoring hope and transforming lives, and ... the humanitarian approach that normally a Disney company would accentuate more so," Sal Ferlise, CEO of SOM based in Virginia, told Baptist Press. "So we see those two [approaches] kind of coming together in maybe not as overt a fashion on the Christian side, but it's definitely there. You can't walk away from [viewing the movie] if you're intelligent and not realize that there's a faith element that's transcending through the process."

One of Mutesi's favorite moments in the movie is when she asks her coach Katende where her "safe square" was. Mutesi said that her safe square in real life was not on chess board, but in the God she believes in.

Her special message for the Christian audience was: "He's always there."

Tags Queen of Katwe, Sports Outreach Ministry (SOM), Phiona Mutesi, Africa's International Children's Chess Tournament, Robert Katende, David Oyelowo

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