Those of us hoping Mira Nair’s fresh ingenuity and cinematic vibrancy hasn’t been lost after disappointing efforts like “Amelia” and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” have a lot riding on “Queen of Katwe,” a biopic about Ugandan champion chess player Phiona Mutesi. The drama hails from Disney and ESPN Films, which might suggest a watered down, overtly safe true story, though Nair’s involvement and the casting of Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo certainly have us thinking otherwise. Luckily, the first traces of footage have rolled in and the film looks both inspirational and gorgeous.
Based on Tim Crothers’ book, which was first adapted from an ESPN the Magazine feature, “Queen of Katwe” stars newcomer Madina Nalwanga as Phiona, whose instant connection to chess leads her from her Ugandan village to the international stage. Nyong’o lends support as Phiona’s mother, while David Oyelowo plays a local missionary. Disney has scheduled the film for a limited bow on September 23, meaning we could see a world premiere at Venice or TIFF if the film has its sights set on the 2016-17 awards season.
The full trailer for “Queen of Katwe” will drop tomorrow, but you can check out the first footage below, courtesy of Nyong’o’s Twitter page.