Disney's 'Queen of Katwe' features Ugandan chess star nurtured by missionaries

by Michael Foust |

LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – An incredible true story about a poor Ugandan girl who became an international chess star under the tutelage of a Christian missionary is now a Disney movie and opens in theaters this weekend.

The Queen of Katwe (PG) follows the true story of Phiona Mutesi, who as a girl could not read or write and had to beg for food in the Ugandan slum of Katwe.

"I thought the life I was living, that everyone was living that life," she told CNN in 2012.

But then she joined a chess program run by missionary Robert Katende (David Oyelowo) within the Sports Outreach Christian ministry – and blossomed.

The movie is based on a book by the same name that was written by author Tim Crothers.

"That she's from Africa makes her an underdog in the world," Crothers told CNN. "The fact that she's from Uganda makes her sort of an underdog in Africa, because it's one of the poorer countries in Africa. The fact that she's in Katwe makes her an underdog in Uganda because it's the most impoverished slum in the entire country. And then to be a girl in Katwe — girls are not treated as equals to the boys."

Said Oyelowo, in a behind-the-scenes feature, "We are all very aware of how blessed we are to make this film."

It also stars Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o.

The film opens in limited theaters this weekend before expanding next weekend.

The Queen of Katwe is rated PG for thematic elements, an accident scene and some suggestive material