Based on a true story, Queen of Katwe follows the journey of Phiona (Madina Nalwanga), a young girl living in Katwe, an impoverished area of the Ugandan capital. At age 10, Phiona and her brother Brian discover the Pioneers, a missionary program where Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) teaches underprivileged children the game of chess. Very quickly, Phiona proves herself a chess mastermind, and it is her talent, along with that of some of her classmates, which prompts Katende to push that the children be allowed to compete in African and international chess championships, even though the children have never attended school and many cannot read or write.
The inspiring aspect of this story lies less in Phiona’s rise to become a Woman Candidate Master, and more in the struggles of her family and the sacrifices they must make for the game. Phiona’s mother Harriet (Lupita Nyong’o) especially makes hard choices for the sake of her family and there are no shortage of obstacles for this young, single mother, but she, like her daughter, is a champion, bringing heart and a happy ending to this biographical film.