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Though it premiered in September 2022, I approached The Woman King hesitantly. I didn’t see it until October. A Hollywood interpretation that would portray the natives as primitive and scantily clothed didn’t appeal to my mind. However, the buzz surrounding the movie interested me. Everybody couldn’t be wrong.
The movie opened with the Agojie, highly skilled, female warriors, attacking a group of male warriors to free captured hostages. That piqued my curiosity, especially since I’d read the movie was based on a real female unit in West African history.
As the bloody Agojie warriors trudge into their village of Dahomey, the awe and esteem they evoke in the village’s people reveals much. The villagers rush out to greet them though they aren’t allowed to look upon the Agojie; and the Agojie, through a simple gesture from warrior Izogie to a little village boy, show how much the people mean to them.
Viola Davis brings all her characters to life, and here, she is the epitome of Nanisca, General of the Agojie, defender of the territory of Dahomey, and guard to King Ghezo (John Boyega). Personal stories revolve around King Ghezo and his wife, Shante; Nanisca (Viola Davis) and her close confidant, Amenza; and Nawi the young girl determined to prove herself fit to a become an Agojie.
Heartwarming scenes catch us up in Nanisca’s feelings as a woman and a former captive, herself, who relies on the support and comfort of her dear friend. In tender scenes we see young Nawi (Thuso Mbedu) bond with Izogie (Lashana Lynch). Both superb actresses should’ve earned Oscar nominations.
Besides heartwarming, scenes are lighthearted and inspiring. The fight scenes are as excellently choreographed as the dance scenes with the actors performing the fights without the use of stunt doubles.
West Africa’s setting of swaying palm trees, green bushes, blue skies, and ocean scenes is juxtaposed against the slave trade of 1823. The slave trade is a story inside the larger story and doesn’t sadden or anger the viewer with its heaviness. If you’re thinking the movie is too depressing to see, don’t believe it. The Woman King is beautiful and simple, strong, and powerful.
It saddens me that in today’s cancel culture, members of the Oscar academy would turn away from this movie because they are trying to deny that slavery ever existed. Insensitive people in power have decided that a great movie can’t even be mentioned during the Oscar ceremony by ignoring its existence. It’s frightening that as we leave Black History Month, black people are still being told, “No! Not yet! Closer! Almost there . . .!”
An Oscar nomination next to the names of these actors would’ve gone a long way in furthering their status in Hollywood; but as important as the actors is the brilliant woman who directed this gem, Gina Prince-Blythewood. Under her direction, the choreography, the celebration songs and chants, the war cries were all made beyond beautiful.
I agree with all who say the academy robbed the movie, and so robbed Viola Davis. She is the TRUTH and the snub to her, and Gina Prince-Blythewood, was a serious snub to black women. The Woman King is streaming on Netflix. Watch it for yourself. Get a big bowl of popcorn, settle back, and prepare to be entertained. Then, when you watch the Oscars next month, think about the movie that should’ve been celebrated over all the categories.