What a great week it has been for the representation of people of colour in cinema both behind and in front of the camera. First came the announcement of the stunning casting of Lupita Nyong'o and Michael B Jordan opposite Chadwick Boseman in Ryan Coogler's Black Panther, then came the release of the trailer for Mira Nair's Queen of Katwe.
Good God in heaven! I cry tears of joy every time I watch this trailer! What Mira Nair has achieved here is what I have been longing for; representation of black women on the silver screen void of the prevailing, perpetual, corrosive slave/maid/waitress narrative. Glory! It is beautiful. In the past I have written of my exhaustion at the sufferation of black women on screen and here we have what promises to be an uplifting, inspirational, important story of the intelligence and resilience of Phiona Mutesi, the Ugandan chess prodigy.
The film is a product of a collaboration between Mira Nair's company Mirabai Films and Maisha Film Lab, a non-profit training initiative that trains emerging film makers in East Africa. A Fork, A Spoon and A Knight is a short film written and directed by Mira Nair and Zippy Kimudu. In the film we learn David Oyelowo's character in Queen of Katwe is based on Robert Katende, a chess coach from Kampala who used chess to transform the lives of children in his care. Watch the film below to understand how brilliant this man is. You can also read more about Katende here on the Queen of Katwe website.
What I love about the development of this story from A Fork, A Spoon and a Knight to Queen of Katwe is the shift of focus from Robert Katende to Phiona Mutesi being the center of the narrative. This is a film about a woman of colour made by a woman of colour and I'm here for it. There is a changing of the guard. Slowly (so slowly) we are seeing women controlling our narrative and it means no longer do we exist on screen solely to bear violence and injustice but we are slowly freeing ourselves of the shackles imposed on us by a patriarchy made comfortable by antiquated ideas of what women of colour do and who we are. I am so excited.
Mira Nair is an accomplished Indian filmmaker living in New York City. Having won the much coveted Cannes Film Festival Audience award in 1988 for Salaam Bombay!, Nair has lead a distinguished career, garnering Academy Award and BAFTA Award nominations for her work. The release of Queen of Katwe heralds the coming of a new age in cinema that sees a much needed revitalisation of the storytellers behind our cinematic gems. Don't get it twisted and play yourself Nair is not some lazy, affirmative action choice for director but a competent, respected, authoritative filmmaker whose resume puts most men in the industry to shame.
Regular readers of my blog know I loathe the distribution of TV and Film starring black protagonists. I pray that this unholy practice will not affect my enjoyment of what is surely an Academy Award contender. I need to be front row and centre at the first showing of this film in London. Take my money, you already have my tears and my gratitude, Mira Nair.
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