More films are coming – more and more… and more! Feel good; feel very good about the world! Drop a few tears as you are departing from the cinema. Utter under your breath: ‘Everything is possible’. Collaborate with the establishment. Forget about the revolution, think ‘positively’ (the way the system wants you to think) and above all, think about yourself!
A film about a real Ugandan chess player Phiona Mutesi , created by the Indian director Mira Nair, Queen of Katwe, is a tour-de-force of true individualism. And again, if you think you are actually watching a Ugandan or even Indian film, you are squarely wrong: it is supposed to feel like an African one, but it is a US movie, produced by Walt Disney Pictures. And it is actually intended and even proudly promoted as a ‘feel good movie’.
The plot is simple and predictable: a little girl grows up in total misery, in one of the toughest slums of Africa – Katwe, at the outskirts of Kampala. Her father has already died of AIDS, her mother is unable to pay the rent, and her older sister is barely surviving as a prostitute. Phiona, just 10-years old, is forced to drop from school.
Her life is approaching total collapse. But then, suddenly, a miracle! Hallelujah!
Phiona enrolls in a state-sponsored chess program. She is talented. She climbs and climbs, soon travelling to Sudan by a plane, and few months later, even to Russia.
It is supposed to be a ‘true story’. And yes, there was a poor girl, growing up in a Ugandan slum. She was talented although she never reached the zenith, and never won any gold medal. In the film, she wins tournaments, makes loads of cash, and buys a villa (looking like a palace), for her family.
Is this what young poor girls watching the film in the Katwe slum should be aiming at? Would such a dream be realistic, or is this an absolute mirage?
Who benefits from such films? Definitely not the poorest of the poor, and definitely not Indians or Africans!
It appears that the only beneficiaries are those people who are trying to uphold the status quo, in the West and in the colonies. They don’t want people to realize: that there is almost no hope left, and only some radical change, a revolution, can reverse and improve things in their plundered countries.
A revolution is a ‘communal’ event. It is never about one person suddenly advancing, or getting ‘rescued’ or ‘saved’. It is not about one person or one family ‘making it’. It is about an entire nation fighting for its rights, for progress, and it is about social justice for all.
Little ‘success stories’ actually divide communities, offering false hopes.
Phiona’s story coming from pro-Western, turbo-capitalist Uganda, has nothing in common with the great communal projects in Venezuelan slums: like the classical Youth Orchestras, or cable cars, childcare centers, public libraries, community learning centers, and free medical posts.
No matter how ‘lovely’ is Mira Nair’s cinematography, winning the lottery, or getting lucky here and there, is not going to change the entire country. That is exactly why those small individualist acts and triumphs are being celebrated and glorified in the centers of Western imperialism. There, no real change is ever welcomed, whether it takes place at home or in the colonies. On the other hand, all selfish little victories are treated as sacred. One should live for himself or herself, disregarding the context.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘The West is Spreading New Wave of Feel-Good Movies and False Hopes’.