Last month it was announced that Amma Asante’s (Belle) feature film, A United Kingdom, was set to open the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) on October 5th. LFF has officially announced that Mira Nair’s (Words With Gods), Queen of Katwe, starring Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) will also debut at the festival on October 9th. This will mark the 7th film that Nair has screened at LFF.

“It makes me very proud that the European premiere of Queen of Katwe, a film so close to my heart, and set in my hometown of Kampala, will take place at the BFI London Film Festival. I have so many fond memories of London. We are proud to be back.” – Mira Nair

The fact-based story revolves 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) and her family life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential. Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed. As Phiona begins to succeed in chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments, but breaks away from her family to focus on her own life. Her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family.

Queen of Katwe beautifully illustrates a thing I know to be true but rarely see in films. Africa is teeming with amazing people who in spite of their, at times, difficult lives, manage to remain full of joy and hope. This is a story where the impossible is made possible through family, mentorship, encouragement, hard work, and faith, all things we can aspire to. It is a story that speaks to anyone and everyone, and I am so proud to have it screen in my hometown as part of the BFI London Film Festival.” – David Oyelowo

The premiere coincides with the launch of the BFI’s Black Star season, which celebrates black actors in film and television from October 17 to the end of the year.

The film is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher (The Darjeeling Limited) and John Carls (Where the Wild Things Are).  Will Weiske and Troy Buder will serve as executive producers. Disney has set a limited domestic release on September 23rd, and will expand theatrically on September 30th. The UK release is November 4. The LFF runs from October 5-16.



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The HBR Media Team is a collective group of black women filmmakers, writers, and studio/network executives who are passionate about bringing visibility to women of African descent working in film and television.

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