UNC professor's book inspires Disney's 'Queen of Katwe'

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A Chapel Hill professor's book has become a Disney movie.

A book written by a UNC Chapel Hill professor is hitting the big screen as a Disney movie.

"Queen of Katwe" will be in theaters in just a few weeks, and author Tim Crothers said he was very surprised when Disney selected his book, "The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl's Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster," to become a screenplay.

It all started when Crothers heard Phiona Mutesi's story in Uganda. He knew it was special -- a real underdog victory -- that would eventually turn into his book and now a movie.

The film features actors Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo and follows Phiona's story as she grows from a girl selling street corn in one of Uganda's poorest cities to a chess champion.

Watch the trailer for "Queen of Katwe" below.


"There is no word for chess in her native language, so it could not have been any more foreign to her to try to learn this game," Crothers said.

"But somehow within the span of four years, she went from being illiterate and with no familiarity with the game of chess, to becoming an international chess champion, and I knew when I heard that story that I wanted to go and meet that girl," Crothers added.

Crothers said it's that kind of perseverance that he hopes will inspire others through Phiona's story.



"Katwe and Uganda, it's a very male dominated society and women are not encouraged to dream. They're encouraged largely to bear children and take care of those children, and Phiona has broken free of that stereotype that has been created for women in Uganda," he said.

"She has proven that you can dream as a woman, and that you can make your dreams come true if you're willing to have the drive to escape your circumstances," he added.

There will be a special screening of "Queen of Katwe" in Chapel Hill next week. The movie hits theaters everywhere Sept. 30.

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