Disney’s ‘Queen of Katwe’ a joyful surprise to Hampton U. students

By Maya Wilson

Opening in theatres Friday, Sept. 30, "Queen of Katwe" is a Disney film, made with an all-black cast. The movie was made to shine a positive light and educate its viewers on African culture and feminism.

Based on a true story, the motion picture follows the life of chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi, who became so skilled at the game, her abilities got her out of the slums where she grew up. Mutesi eventually becomes Uganda's first female chess master. In this movie, Disney conveys to their viewers that people should always persevere and follow their dreams to ultimately accomplish their goals.

Students at Hampton University were pleased to hear about this film because the concept is so different from most Disney movies. Finding out about the all-black cast caught a lot of students off guard, including Matthew Dow, a freshman from New Jersey.

"There's no way that Disney is making a movie about an African girl," Dow said. "I'm interested to see how this all plays out."

Critics have said there has been a lack of diversity in Disney projects over the years, but recently the studio have been showcasing different cultures in their films. Not too long ago, the studio announced that their newest Disney Princess is Moana [Thanksgiving 2016] from Polynesia. Most Disney princesses beforehand have been of European descent, with the exceptions such as Mulan [1998] and Tiana [2009] in "The Princess and the Frog."

"Growing up, I rarely saw people in Disney movies who looked like me," said Nathania Hector, a junior from New Jersey. "I'm happy that Disney is making an effort to showcase more of our people."

In "Queen of Katwe," Disney is not only showcasing the talents of African people as a whole, but the talents of an African female in particular. People never expect for a woman to master the game of chess and beat men at the game, thus putting feminism under a positive light. By becoming a Uganda's first female chess master, Mutesi ultimately breaks gender stereotypes about the game.

Disney movies commonly display women waiting for men to come to their rescue. These films have always told women that it is OK to be dependent and spend their whole life, waiting for their knight in shining armor. "Queen of Katwe" is different.

"I think it's important to teach girls to be independent and reach their goals," said Jordan Parker, a junior from Texas. "We have our own aspirations, just as men do. Hopefully, this film conveys the message to those who don't realize."

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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