Deadline posted an article yesterday on the difficulties of marketing films to religious and mainstream audiences simultaneously. The hook for the story was the upcoming release of Queen of Katwe later this month. The film tells the true story of a Ugandan girl who becomes a chess prodigy with the help of a Christian missionary.
As I noted four months ago, the missionary in question is affiliated with an evangelical ministry called Sports Outreach, and he is played in the film by David Oyelowo, an actor who has spoken quite freely about his own Christan faith when promoting films like Selma (where he played Martin Luther King Jr) and Captive (in which he plays a criminal whose life is impacted by Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life).
I wondered at the time if Queen of Katwe would be as frank about the religious side of the story as the short documentaries that Sports Outreach and others have made about the chess prodigy in question, whose name is Phiona Mutesi. Now Deadline reports that the religious stuff might be “somewhat downplayed” in the film:
According to people who have seen the movie, Mutesi’s Christianity is present in the film’s imagery and occasional prayerful thought. But it is said to be somewhat downplayed, especially when compared with her open profession of religious belief in a Christian Broadcasting Network video report that pops up on YouTube, right after the almost entirely secular trailer for Disney’s film.
Deadline also reports that a Christian marketing firm is preparing a promotional video “that will integrate Disney’s more secular lessons about gamesmanship and aspiration with sequences in which [real-life missionary Robert] Katende discusses his faith.”
It sounds like this could be another case like Unbroken, which was sold to Christians on the strength of the story’s real-life Christian associations even though those Christian elements weren’t really in the film all that much (if at all).
Here’s hoping there’s more to Queen of Katwe than that.
In the meantime, Disney has released some featurettes with soundbites from director Mira Nair, co-stars Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o, and singer Alicia Keys:
The film will have its world premiere at the Toronto film festival on September 10. It will then have a limited release on September 23 and go wide on September 30.