Next month may shake some tables in the film world: A Black, female-led cast is set to star in the historical epic “The Woman King,” premiering this September.
The film is directed by Gina Prince Bythewood, who is known for her writing on the sitcom A Different World as well as for directing several films including Love and Basketball (2000) and The Old Guard (2020).
The action-heavy film is inspired by true events. It tells the story of the Agojie, an all-female unit of warriors who protected the kingdom of Dahomey (located within present-day Benin) from invaders in the 19th century. Viola Davis stars as General Nanisca, the leader of the Agojie. Thuso Mbedu stars as Nawi, an eager recruit in the war. The film also stars John Boyega, Lashana Lynch, and several other well-known Black actors.
Some controversy has brewed over whether the woman warriors deserve such a spotlight. The kingdom is infamously known for its practice of attacking enemy states and enslaving their people. Ghezo (played by Boyega) was the King of Dahomey at the time of the film’s events, and has a disturbing quote that reads: “The slave trade has been the ruling principle of my people. It is the source of their glory and wealth. Their songs celebrate their victories and the mother lulls the child to sleep with notes of triumph over an enemy reduced to slavery.”
With weeks left before it hits theaters, some hard questions stand: will “The Woman King” be historically accurate? In an industry that has always glamorized war and conquest, does it really matter? The film premieres on Sept. 16, 2022, and will certainly engender some hot debates when we watch the retelling for ourselves.