Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Mission Work and Queen of Katwe

Image result for queen of katwe

More movie thoughts today. We watched the film Queen of Katwe on Netflix over the weekend. It is a Disney film but fortunately not overly Disneyfied in the clich├ęd sense. It is the inspiring, well-acted, well-told story of Phiona Mutesi, a 9-year-old Ugandan girl living in a slum of Kampala called Katwe. In her search for food Phiona stumbles upon a chess club run by a Christian mission which focuses on sport. She learns to play chess and excels at it, eventually becoming  a Woman Candidate Master after her victories at World Chess Olympiads.

The movie is filmed entirely in Africa, mostly in Katwe, so there is a sense of authenticity to the surroundings. There is the visual reminder of the abject poverty so many in our world live in, and the desperation and hard choices made due to the need to survive.

Phiona's mentor from the mission sports club was Robert Katende, now in his 30's.  He and his wife Sarah have three daughters, Mercy, Hope and Queen. Robert is an engineer by profession specializing in Civil, IT & Computer engineering. He grew up in the slums of Kampala as well, but worked his way to university.

All the right moves: Phiona Mutesi with her chess mentor Robert Katende.  

Phiona Mutese and Robert Katende

Someone has described Queen of Katwe as an unintentionally Christian film, and I suppose that's true. There is certainly no proselytizing in the movie and little about the mission. What struck me is that we tend to have a negative perception of mission work and missionaries, for good reason, associating them with colonialism and Western arrogance whether in distant countries or with the Aboriginal peoples who were here before Europeans arrived. This story reminds us that there are missions focused on self-respect and educational advancement which employ those who've had experiences of emerging from poverty and privation.

Any thoughts about the film, the story, or mission work in general?


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