The mural behind the snack bar isn’t finished yet. I hope that doesn’t keep you from the Fleur Cinema and Cafe, because it’s quite a charming little place. We’re not posting any close ups of the movie star mural which is in the process of being painted, but it’s coming along. For now, you can enjoy the lounge area with pictures of iconic actors and films. Even the restrooms are decorated (and have peppermints). I particularly liked the lettering of film titles above the theater entrances.
There are just four screens in the theater, but the programmers apparently try to provide a mix of the more popular blockbusters with what passes as arthouse fare these days. This week that mix included the #1 film of last weekend, The Girl on the Train, but also The Birth of a Nation, this year’s favorite at the Sundance Film Festival. We went to see The Queen of Katwe.
The Queen of Katwe is a Disney release based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a poor Ugandan girl who became a chess champion. Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o plays Phiona’s mother, and David Oyelowo plays the youth worker Robert Katende, who introduces Phiona to the game of chess.
This film should qualify for a Movie Church, but the film very much tries to downplay that fact. The logo for the “Sports Outreach Program” that Katende works for does feature a cross and a book, presumably the Bible. But otherwise one would never guess from the film that the program that introduced Phiona to chess, the Sports Outreach Institute, is a Christian organization.
Robert Katende does pray with his students before a match but not “in Jesus name.” He doesn’t really talk about God or Jesus much at all. He does talk about being a fighter and living up to your potential, but all that’s a bit different than the real Sports Outreach Institute of Uganda, which prominently features the Great Commission (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”) on its website. The ministry does have a holistic approach to ministry, looking to sports to build character in young people, but they do not scrimp on the spiritual side of things.
The main spiritual conversations in the film aren’t initiated by Katende, but by students on their first airplane flight. One of the chess students on the plane, Benji, prays the Lord’s Prayer to deal with his fear. And Phiona looking out at the clouds on the airplane asks Katende, “Is this heaven?” (Having just watched Field of Dreams for our Iowa film, I was tempted to yell out “No, it’s Iowa!”) But Katende just answers that, “Heaven is much higher”.
The cast is wonderful, and it’s great to see a film set entirely in Africa without Tarzan. The weakness of the film is that chess is not a very cinematic “sport” (ESPN is a co-producer of the film). But if you see it, make sure to stick around for the credits so you can see the actors with their real life counterparts. (Oh, Sully did that too, but I forgot to tell you last week. Sorry.)