The Woman King is a historical epic based on true events of the Agojie, an all-female warrior unit that protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey during the 17th to 19th centuries. Set in the 1820s, the film centres around, General Nanisca (played by Viola Davis), who trains the next generation of warriors to fight their enemies. It is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and written by Dana Stevens and Maria Bello. The film also stars Lashana Lynch, John Boyega, Thuso Mbedu and Sheila Atim.
To get in shape for the film, Viola Davis had to put herself through a gruelling daily workout comprising of an hour and a half of weight training, 3 and a half hours of martial arts – plus hitting the treadmill. She believed that this was all essential to getting the mindset of the warrior that she played on-screen, which allowed her to feel empowered in her own body.
However, The Woman King was very much a passion project for Viola, which she co-produced with her husband, Julius Tennon, and with its box office success and rave reviews, it is proving to be a defining moment in her career. When it first opened at the Toronto Film Festival in September, she gave an impassioned speech about the movie;
“You know what? I feel like my entire life, I’ve allowed myself to be defined by a culture, I’ve allowed myself to be defined by the naysayers. I’ve been dropped in a profession that’s defined by depravation. And so, a lot of times, you just allow other people to define you. At 57 years old, I’ve come to the realisation that I can define myself,” the Oscar-winning actress said.
“This film is for the risk-takers. This film is for the people who maybe even are the naysayers — who never believed that a Black woman, especially dark-skinned women, can lead a global box office.”
“This film is for the Black women who are out there on the periphery, a conduit, a vehicle to shine a beautiful and glorious light. I’m really proud to be a part of that,”
“I always said this film is my magnum opus. But it’s my magnum opus because it’s everything I ever dreamed it could be. That we could be humanized. That we can be all those things. But it’s for my 6-year old self that sort of left prostrate on the ground in Central Falls, Rhode Island — the little girl who was traumatized, the little girl who was called ugly, the little girl who wasn’t seen, who was left invisible. I see you Viola. I see every chocolate girl who is like you. I’m telling you to stop running. This is my gift to you.”
After seeing the movie (and giving it five stars), Visionary Arts thank Viola, the cast and entire creative crew for producing this wonderful and powerful gift. It is certainly looking like a contender to make the shortlist when we announce the nominations for our Film of the Year at the annual Visionary Honours!