One of my favorite films of 2016 barely made a dent at the box office and, in fact, lost money. But it’s a wonderful, inspiring picture and the lucky few who experience Queen of Katwe will be better off having seen it. If you missed your chance to experience it in theaters, it is now available on Digital HD and debuts on DVD and Blu-Ray on January 31st.
Queen of Katwe tells the story of Phiona Mutesi, a poor girl from Katwe with little going for her. When a local man, Robert Katende, spends his free time teaching chess to kids on the streets, Phiona discovers her talent for the sport. Against the odds, she begins to compete on a global level, becoming a hero to her people.
Filmed entirely on location in Katwe, Uganda, and South Africa, Queen of Katwe exudes authenticity in every frame. Using mostly local actors, the only big names in the film come from Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo in a cast of unknowns. But you will easily fall in love with each and every character in this film as the story unfolds and will find the entire picture hard to forget.
For a Disney film, Queen of Katwe is kid friendly, but also explores some more mature themes that are a reality to the people of Katwe. It’s all done in such a way that kids won’t notice anything is amiss while adults experience another layer to the film intended only for them. That’s just part of the beauty and magnificence of this marvelous film.
The point that I’m trying to make is that Queen of Katwe isn’t merely another film in the list of forgettable live action Disney movies. It’s more than that, a profound experience that will touch your soul and change your life. And therefore, it’s worthy of at least a rental.
Using the theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1, this film looks dazzling in high definition. Fine details and clarity is consistent throughout. The color scheme mostly relies on earth tones, but the occasional bright colors are vivid and lively.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that comes with the iTunes copy of the film utilizes the full sound field. The lively music fills all the speakers, immersing you in the joyous spirit of the film. Sound effects are expertly mixed to welcome audiences to Katwe via their home theaters.
- Queen of Katwe: Their Story (29:45) – This three part making of feature lets you meet the real inspirations behind the film. It’s an honest and emotional look at life in Katwe.
- Audio Commentary (2:04:17) – Director Mira Nair reveals some fascinating cultural facts about Katwa and Uganda and explains her influences for the film in this engaging commentary.
- A Fork, A Spoon & A Knight (13:14) – The documentary short film that Mira Nair made about Robert Katende helped inspire Queen of Katwe and is presented as a bonus feature here.
- In the Studio with Alicia Keys (6:26) – The famous singer talks about the inspiration for her end credit ballad, “Back to Life.”
- Alicia Keys “Back to Life” Music Video (5:01) – Still photos from the film come to life with stylized lyrics.
- Young Caramom & HAB “#1 Spice” Music Video (3:55) – The duo perform their song on the streets of Katwe with members of the cast, including Lupita Nyong’o.
- Deleted Scenes
- Introduction (0:30) – Mira Nair introduces you to the deleted scenes from Queen of Katwe
- Graduation (1:18) – Robert Katende’s graduation originally opened the film.
- Job Application (1:07) – Robert applies for a job with a itchy headed woman.
- Dancing and Rent (1:51) – Phiona dances in the streets, but returns home to her mother, unable to pay rent.
- Entering the Hospital (2:15) – Phiona’s mom gets dressed in her finest clothes to convince the hospital that she has money.
- Escape from the Hospital (1:33) – The walk home from the hospital is nothing but easy.
- They Can’t Go to Budo (2:50) – Robert Katende has to fight to take his kids to their first big chess meet.
- Flood (Extended Scene) (7:36) – This extended scene is even more heartbreaking than the shortened film version.
- Phiona’s Chess Club (1:06) – Phiona brings chess to her new school.
Queen of Katwe was one of the best films of 2016. With a 92% rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so. With that, I hope you will give this diamond in the rough a chance to impress you the way it did me.