Film

Ugandan Disney Exec on Bringing 'Queen of Katwe' to Life

Tendo Nagenda, Disney’s executive vice president of production, speaks on the commitment to tell stories authentically with 'Queen of Katwe.'

“Genius ability lies everywhere, it’s very abundant in Africa as well,” Tendo Nagenda says.


It was an ESPN feature by the former senior Sports Illustrated writer, Tim Crothers, that moved Nagenda, Disney’s executive vice president of production, to facilitate the Queen of Katwe. “What I saw is a genuine underdog story and something that was as relatable as Cinderella—which is another movie I worked on.”

Nagenda worked on Disney’s latest production about the Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi which chronicles the teenager’s triumphs despite her harrowing experiences in childhood, including her father passing from AIDS and growing up in a slum, with no guarantees of a full meal. By the time she was 11, Mutesi had won the women’s junior championship and continued to dominate the competition for three more years. 2009 was the first time the chess champion ever boarded a plane or slept in her own bed, at a hotel, during a trip to Juba, Sudan where she took the cup. Experiences that Crothers captures in the 2012 book: Queen of Katwe.

On the responsibility to make believable stories, Nagenda shares: “There’s a commitment to telling stories authentically. We shot in Africa—in Uganda and South Africa. All the children in the film had never acted before and were from Katwe. That was a big thing for Disney to commit to using untrained actors—to make sure we trained them.”

Tendo Nagenda. Photo courtesy of Liquid Soul Marketing Agency.

One of the most conspicuous details in the cast line-up is that Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave) and Oscar nominated actor David Oyelowo (Selma) are not Ugandan. “We wanted to hire the best actors to portray these parts—Oyelowo as the coach Robert Katende, and Nyong’o as Phiona’s mother Nakku Harriet. I think authenticity goes deeper than this specific country. If you start to dig in on that level, you’d have to find someone who can act and attract a worldwide audience. Lupita and David can bring an authenticity in their portrayal because both have spent significant time in the region and got a sense of Uganda.”

Oyelowo was in Uganda to film The Last King of Scotland and Lupita attended the Maisha Film Lab, which was founded by the film’s director Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!), long before Hollywood catapulted her to the A-List.

Star power aside, Nagenda notes that this film is indeed authentic, explaining: “This is a story about people raising themselves up—nobody comes to their rescue from the West, we thought that was a very important thing to do.”

Speaking on the importance of having Africans in corporate side of show business, Nagenda states: “When we are able to bring our point of view to it, we are able to show how stories from that point of view connect us to the rest of the world as opposed to separate us.”

Photo by Edward Echwalu.

A-List, African, Hollywood heavyweights are so few you’d be forgiven for thinking that no African executives exist. Nagenda is a Ugandan-Belizean professional who was U.S. born, but lived in Uganda as a 12-year-old. “We stayed for a year-and-a-half but it changed my world view. It helped me understand the things that Uganda, Africa, had in common with the rest of the world.”

On the importance of the soundtrack and working with a team that understands the region, Nagenda says: “The director [Mira Nair] is particularly attuned to music and it plays a big part in all of her films—she really took pains to ensure we were accurately representing music from the region.” The soundtrack includes new, old and trending stars including: Davido, Alicia Keys and Afrigo Band—to name a few.

Phiona’s story is a reminder of that “gifts in young people live everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you’re from,” according to Nagenda. Come September 23, Uganda’s biggest film to date will remind audiences that excellence too can be found in Katwe. Or as Nagenda put it: “It’s a movie from Africa for the world.”

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Photo credits: Deeds Art

Tems Is Just Doing Her Thang In New Music Video 'Crazy Tings'

The Nigerian songstress is hell bent on taking over your summer playlist and it's getting harder to resist.

It has been a fantastic year for Tems. The Nigerian singer, producer, and songwriter achieved a platinum record for eternal banger Essence, her collaboration with fellow Nigerian superstar Wizkid, an MTV EMA nomination for Best African Artist, a billion worldwide video views, and over 350 million audio streams. Not to mention featuring on Canadian rapper Drake's blowout album Certified Lover Boy, the singer has also sold out every show she's booked.

The release of Tems's sophomore EP If Orange Was a Place solidified her place amongst the greats and it was received with gusto by fans and international audiences. A month after the release the Afrobeats singer has graced fans with a sultry music video to go along with equally as tantalizing lead single Crazy Tings. Conceptualized by the multitalented Tems, and directed by UAX, the music video follows a sensual Tems as she sings about needing space from a lying partner.

International audiences continue to rave over the songstress, with Tems delivering an impressive US TV debut on late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! this month. Essence continues to top international charts. While becoming the official song of the summer, the track peaked on the Billboard 100 Top 10, becoming the most Shazamed song in the United States and was remixed by Canadian musical heavyweight Justin Bieber, becoming the first song written by Nigerian artists to hit No.1 on Urban Radio.

Tems has been producing consistent hits since her debut in September 2020, and a year later, the singer's immense talent is securing her reputation as a world-class superstar.

Check out Tem's music video for single 'Crazy Tings' below

Tems - Crazy Tings (Official Video) www.youtube.com

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