The film was about a chess prodigy rising from a Ugandan slum and was based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi. She began playing chess at age nine and went on to compete in international tournaments.
Queen of Katwe starred Lupita Nyong’o as her mother and David Oyelowo as her chess teacher. Waligwa portrayed Gloria, a friend of Phiona who explained the rules of chess to her.
Waligwa was initially diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016, and her film family mobilized to get her treatment in India. She made a recovery in 2017, but the tumor returned last year.
In the 2016 biographical film, Phiona Mutesi learns chess through charity worker Robert Katende, played by British actor David Oyelowo. He encourages the young Katwe children to play the game. Phiona dominated her peers, and Katende challenges her by taking her to compete in tournaments with international players with greater advantages.