We’ve witnessed the phenomenal acting prowess of Viola Davis on stage, in films and on television – the first Black actor to capture the Triple Crown of acting: the Emmy, the Oscar and the Tony.
But based on her latest performance in “The Woman King,” which opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, Sept. 16, she may have a simple message for anyone willing to listen: “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
In recent interviews leading up to the film’s release, Davis said the film brings Black women to the forefront and serves as one of the most important works of her career, describing the movie as her “magnum opus.”
Hold on to your hats as you witness a tale which, while fictitious, bares similarities to actual accounts of a people whose lives and achievements have been redacted – even whitewashed – from the pages of world history.
As for the leading character, viewers will not see a white savior come to the rescue in this story which takes place on the continent of Africa in the 1820s during the height of the slave trade.
Instead, our protagonist will be General Nanisca (Davis), who leads a skillfully-trained, fierce group of all-female warriors who refuse to relinquish control of their West African kingdom of Dahomey. Faced with the threat of being overcome by foreign enemies who want to gain control over their people, land and resources – in effect, to destroy their way of life – they go on the offensive.
Davis portrays the Agojie general Nanisca who while a fictional character, may have historical validity as her name may have been inspired by a Ajogie teenage recruit of the same moniker and about whom a French naval officer wrote in 1889.
Incidentally, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the powerful Ajogie (also spelled “Agoji”) warrior women, commonly referred to as the Dahomey Amazons – a name they received from the French during their reign as front-line troops from 1625 to 1894. A fictionalized version of the fearless army made its debut in the superhero movie “Black Panther.”
The film’s writer, Maria Bellow, began to formulate the idea for “The Woman King” after visiting Benin, the land on which Dahomey once stood, and heard the history of the Ajogie.
Following the movie’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 9, critics gave it high praise for its direction, fight choreography, production design and performances.
An added bonus for moviegoers will be both the verdant lands of South Africa which serve as the setting for the film in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal and the capital city of Cape Town and the musical score, written by Terence Blanchard.
I don’t know what readers may be doing this weekend but this writer will be going to the movies for an adventure back to the Motherland and a much-needed history lesson.