Lupita Nyong'o 'Exhausted' by Africa-Set Films With Black Characters in Background, Hopes 'Katwe' Is Game-Changer

Hollywood has a long history of films set on the continent of Africa — yet the overwhelming majority of have been told through the perspective of a white character. The African Queen, Out of Africa, Gorillas in the Mist, Blood Diamond, Tarzan, The Last King of Scotland, we could go on and on.

“We are exhausted by it,” Lupita Nyong’o told Yahoo Movies (watch above) at the Toronto press day for her new drama, Queen of Katwe. “As Africans, it’s exhausting to see stories told with you in the background.”

It’s part of the reason Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, The Force Awakens) and co-star David Oyelowo (Selma) were excited about the Disney-released Katwe, which tells the inspiring and riveting true-life tale of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga). “Finally this film comes along with a major studio, and we are front and center,” Nyong’o said.

Related: From ‘La La Land’ to ‘Katwe,’ the Best of the Toronto International Film Festival

The English-born Oyelowo, who also plays African prince Seretse Khama in another Toronto premiere, United Kingdom, said that they were in a “state of shock” that a film with almost an entirely black cast was green-lighted by a major studio like Disney. “You cannot but hope it’s the start of a sea-change,” he said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to see for a while as a person of African descent.”

Katwe was directed by Indian filmmaker Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake), who has lived in Uganda for 20 years and was specifically approached by Disney with the project.

“I would argue that if a white guy had directed this film, the whole story would get transposed to Idaho,” Oyelowo said.

History says he’s right, but the future looks more promising.

Queen of Katwe is in select theaters now and opens everywhere Sept. 30. Watch the trailer: