Wednesday, 26 October 2016


When the highest praise which one can afford a film is that it at least does its job, it hardly qualifies as praise. Surely that is the mandate of every film, though if every film too defines its own mandate via existing in whatever form it takes, then this is praise affordable to all films. Thus, one must critique the intentions, not the technique, of the filmmakers, and so Queen of Katwe arrives onto screens, flawed from the outset, though aren't we all? And yet the respectful simplicity that Mira Nair brings to this respectful, simple telling of an inspirational true story thoroughly feels worthy of praise, so rare is it that so large an audience is granted so complete a picture of ordinary African life. Katwe, Kampala is rendered real in Nair's vivid anthropological approach, reduced in this Disnified depiction yet legitimized by very virtue of being depicted at all. Queen of Katwe is ultimately, unavoidably remiss in merely skirting past the essential complexity in its central sport, chess, but Nair keenly keeps the film's focus upon its characters and their emotions, rather than their exploits, emphasizing the personal effects of their precise locational and societal circumstances. As much as one cannot fault Nair for these sound artistic choices, one can neither rejoice in the ambition that they consistently lack. Queen of Katwe is an appealing film from first frame to last - indeed, it's virtually all appeal, with too little in the manner of identifiable conflict - but it's never much more than just that.