Underestimate the power of cinema at your own peril. Just as 2016's Oscar-nominated hit Hidden Figures showed little girls around the world that science wasn't a boys-only club, Mira Nair's brilliant chess biopic, Queen Of Katwe, reportedly had a similar effect on students all around Uganda.
According to a recent study from Oxford’s department of Economics, students who watched the movie before their national exams performed better than the students who didn't.
The feel-good movie, which starred David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o, and Madina Nalwanga, followed the real life of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in a slum in Katwe, who learns to play chess and becomes a world champion.
The goal of the study by doctorate student Emma Riley was to examine whether exposure to a positive role model could inspire students to try harder in school.
For the study, 1,500 secondary students in Kampala – one week and one month away from taking their national qualifying exams – were taken to watch either Queen of Katwe or a placebo film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
According to the study, students completing their final year of school who watched Queen of Katwe were more likely to get the required grades to get into university; and younger students completing their 4th year of school also improved their overall scores.
The benefits of this experiment were the most pronounced for female students and students at lower-ranked schools. Concluding the study, Riley said:
"This paper stresses the importance of role models for raising students’ aspirations about what they can achieve and calibrating the potential returns to education.
Through this, a role model can have significant effects on students’ educational attainment."
You can read the rest of the study right here.