Queen of Katwe

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Not recommended under 8; parental guidance recommended 8-13; due to disturbing scenes and themes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Queen of Katwe
  • a review of Queen of Katwe completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 December 2016.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Children 8 to 13 Parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Queen of Katwe
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 124 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Queen of Katwe is based on a true story about a young girl Phiona Matesi (Madina Nalwanga) who comes from the slums of Kampala, Uganda.  There she lives an impoverished life with her widowed mother, Harriet (Lupita Nyong'o), her older sister Night (Taryn Kyaze), and two brothers, Brian (Martin Kabanza) and Richard (Ivan Jacobo).

Phiona helps her mother sell vegetables every day at the market, but one day follows her brother Brian to the Sports Ministry Outreach Church where she watches him and several other children learning to play chess. Their teacher is Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), a former footballer and engineer, who has taken a position as a sports missionary to help the disadvantaged children.

Robert invites Phiona in and she starts to play the game that will change the whole course of her life. Robert realizes she is a prodigy at chess and encourages her to enter tournaments, against her mother’s judgment. She goes on to be a successful chess player, however, winning the Uganda women's junior championship when she is only 11 and also winning Africa’s International Children’s Chess Tournament in 2009 with teammates Ivan (Ronald Ssemaganda) and Benjamin (Ethan Nazario Lubega). She is also able to return to school with much support from the Church.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Poverty and hardship; prejudice; prostitution; loss of a parent

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Harriet kicks out at Night’s boyfriend Theo (Maurice Kirya) who she knows will use Night as a prostitute. She warns him to leave her daughter alone or she will hurt him.
  • The children all tease Phiona when she first comes to the chess club because she smells. She eventually hits back at them when they spit at her and snort at her, calling her a pig.
  • Harriet grabs Phiona and Brian by their ears and marches them out of the room.
  • Brian is standing in the road when he is suddenly hit by a motorbike, which knocks him unconscious.
  • Harriet hits Night because she leaves Richard alone and he nearly drowns in a flash flood.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, some children in this age group may be worried by the slum conditions that Phiona lives in – full of dirt and rubble, dilapidated buildings and shacks- and by:

  • The scene where Brian is hit by a motorbike is quite distressing. Phiona has to pay a motorbike rider to help her take him to hospital. He is unconscious and has to be carried on the bike.
  • In the hospital the doctors have no pain medication but Harriet agrees to him being stitched up – he screams in pain and Phiona has to cover her ears.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent and disturbing scenes , there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Katwe is a scary looking place and the shack Phiona lives in with her family is very sparse. They have little food to eat and Harriet and the children all have to work hard to make a living.
  • Robert enters the children into a chess competition at King’s College to compete against the ‘rich kids’. The principal doesn’t want them there and is afraid that they’ll bring diseases with them. Phiona’s partner makes a point of wiping his hand after he has to shake hands with her.
  • When Harriet can’t afford to keep Brian in the hospital, she pulls the drip out from his arm and Brian has to walk, with her help, back to their home.
  • Harriet and her children are thrown out of their house because they haven’t paid the rent. They sleep on the streets and eventually are allowed to stay in an old hall.
  • One night the rains come and the hall is flooded out. Night is supposed to have been looking after Richard, but she has left with Theo. Richard is washed from his bed and is seen hanging on by a rope. Harriet arrives just in time to save him. All their belongings are washed away.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent and disturbing scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Robert tells Phiona that his mother had him when she was very young and his father had another family so he was brought up by someone else. He met his mother when he was six and she meant the world to him. Sometime after, she died leaving him feeling very depressed. He wanted to die but now he is glad that he didn’t take his life.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

  • Coca-cola

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Night is being used as a prostitute by Theo.
  • Night becomes pregnant.
  • Phiona is worried that soon the men will start coming after her.
  • The landlady tells Harriet to find a ‘sugar daddy’.

Nudity and sexual activity

Nothing of concern

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Some drinking and smoking on the streets.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • The children call Phiona names such as pig.

In a nutshell

Queen of Katwe is an uplifting, true story of a young girl from the slums of Uganda who finds her way out by being a champion chess player. Her coach Robert is also an inspirational character who gives up his engineering career to help underprivileged children. It’s a delightful story but the reality of life in the slums is quite intense, so the film is not recommended for children under 8 and parental guidance is recommended for children aged 8 to 13.

The main messages from this movie are that through perseverance you can achieve your goals and that we should all help those in need.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • perseverance
  • loyalty
  • compassion
  • selflessness
  • having hope

Parents may also wish to discuss the way in which the children from the slums are treated by others and if and when this happens in our society.