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Chess and Its Cinematic Influence: “Fresh” and “Queen of Katwe” Movies Reviews

Jul 20, 2021 09:58AM ● By Anand Subramanian

Chess has long had an elevated place in this sports culture because it caters to both critical and technical brains, cultivating a realm of complexity. The fight for strategy and mental agility to demonstrate their superiority has filled the realm of chess with fascinating stories that have served as inspiration for numerous films. While we celebrate World Chess Day by making the proper moves on the board, we will discuss two visually compelling films - Queen of Katwe and Fresh - both of which construct an inspiring experience around the game of Chess.

Queen of Katwe (2016)

Based on a real story, Mira Nair's sensitive drama stars Madina Nalwanga as Phiona Mutesi, a young Ugandan lady from an underprivileged area with chess skills. The director inserts a compelling tale of human perseverance that is nicely balanced with a heartwarming concept, genuine emotions, and a larger social picture. Although Phiona is compelled to drop out of school to sell maize and carry water for her impoverished family in the Katwe slum, her mother Harriet (Lupita Nyong'o) ensures that she does not end up like her elder daughter. Phiona's story runs parallel with Robert Katenda's (David Oyelowo) brave attempts to teach chess to slum children through a government-funded Sports Outreach Institute. The two stories intersect when Phiona enters the Outreach program her education becomes Robert's top focus. Phiona's route to prodigy is filled with stumbling hurdles, such as her brother's injury, a monsoon that destroys their homes, and an ongoing financial strain. Carrying such responsibilities gets lighter when her mother and Robert emerge as her guiding stars. While her mother is always concerned about her development, Robert teaches her chess techniques under the cover of life lessons. Nair's wonderfully crafted film explains an honest hard-earned triumph while addressing an authentic Katwe setting, resulting in a biography that resonates throughout the world, embodying Phiona's perseverance, optimism, and love for chess.

Figure 1 - Still from Queen of Katwe. Source - Google

Fresh (1994)

Fresh, directed by Boaz Yakin, is loaded with drama, excitement, and a plot that develops a great narrative with complexity. The main character exposes himself methodically, much like a chess battle. The plot focuses on a 12-year-old kid, Fresh (Sean Nelson), who works as a runner for drug dealers and lives in Brooklyn with 11 other children and an aunt who is powerless to protect the children from the perils they encounter on the streets. Fresh, who is proficient at caring for himself, is separated from his family through no fault of his own. Fresh's mother is not there, his sister Nichole (N'Bushe Wright) is a heroin addict who the married Esteban (Giancarlo Esposito) is drawn to, and Fresh's father, Sam (Samuel L. Jackson), is a speed chess genius who hustles the unsuspecting in Washington Square Park and also educates his son in the game. Using chess as a metaphor, Sam does his best to teach his kid about life, which also reveals the movie's outcome each step of the way. Yakin's well-crafted screenplay establishes all of the emotions as reasonable and brings a new perspective in the form of drama and thriller, making this film a narrative of depth and power, where the dangerous streets are seen through the eyes of a 12-year-old who reacts with objectivity learned from chess.

Figure 2 - Still from Fresh. Source - Google

 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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