Reign of the Queen
With Queen of Katwe, Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair has created her own version of Slumdog Millionaire; Nair’s film is based in Uganda’s capital Kampala, a place she calls home. At the European premiere of the film during the British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Fesitval, Nair, accompanied by the film’s lead actors Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo said, “It was a chance for me to distil 27 years of living in Uganda, to bring it to the screen in a way that is hardly ever seen, which is a portrait of everyday life, with its dignity and struggle and joy.”
The film is a biographical sketch of the life of chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi. Mutesi hails from the sprawling Katwe slum near Kampala, and goes on to become a national champion and two-time competitor at the Chess Olympiad. Nyong’o plays Mutesi’s mother, Harriet, while Oyelowo played her teacher and mentor. The lead actor, Madina Nalwanga, couldn’t make it for the film’s screening at Odeon, Leicester Square.
Nair, who is married to Ugandan academic Mahmood Mamdani, and lives just 15 minutes away from the slum of Katwe, said, “I wanted to tell that genius is not a one-person show. It takes the whole community of Katwe to harness Phiona’s intelligence.”
Directors Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla’s film The Insignificant Man, which follows the rise of Aam Aadmi Party founder Arvind Kejriwal, competed with 12 other documentaries from across the world for the prestigious Grierson Award. Besides Ranka and Shukla, editor Manan Bhatt was also present at the film’s twin screenings. On the other hand, the glamorous team of Bollywood film Mirzya — which marks the debut of Anil Kapoor’s son, Harshvardhan — also made quite an impact.
Not to miss that lead pair Harshvardhan and Saiyami Kher were also accompanied by the actor’s father as well as sister Sonam Kapoor on the red carpet. Among the classics, Shyam Benegal’s 1979 film Junoon, in which Shashi Kapoor plays a man obsessed with a young Anglo-Indian woman, pulled quite a crowd during its screening at Southbank.
Awards and Honours
UK director Steve McQueen received BFI’s highest honour at the London Film Festival. The Oscar-winning director of 12 Years a Slave was presented with the BFI Fellowship by actor Michael Fassbender at a special awards dinner. “It’s a case of just continuing with the work but it’s one of those things that give you a little spring in your step, for sure,” said McQueen.
Meanwhile, Certain Women, directed by Kelly Reichardt and starring Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart, won the prize for best film. Julia Ducournau won the Sutherland Award for best first feature for Raw.
Best short film was 9 Days — From My Window in Aleppo, a joint production by Syrian photographer Issa Touma, Thomas Vroege and Floor van de Muelen.