Last weekend I went to see The Woman King. The trailer automatically put this film on my list. It felt exciting and right up my alley given the genre of the film. The Woman King was introduced as based or inspired by the true events of the Mino (also known as the Agoji as referred to in the film), the all female military regiment of the Dahomey Empire of West Africa (modern day Benin).
Days before the films release, social media was teeming with negative press surrounding the film. Influencers and media outlets were calling for audiences to boycot the film due to inaccurate portrayals of historical events. One point being that the Dahomey Empire was amongst the biggest perpetrators of the transatlantic slave trade as they raided neighboring villages for the sole purpose of kidnapping people to sell to Europeans into slavery. The Dahomey benefitted financially and grew their empire extensively as a result. Another claim being that the film sought to write out male involvement in the military as a part of a larger feminist agenda. While both points were causes for pause, I decided to see the film anyway because I’d like to make my own opinion of the film and even if the film was historically inaccurate, like so many other films said to be based in historical fact, it surely would serve as a teachable piece.
The Woman King was spectacular. I was truly relieved to see that everything I’d seen as a warning was in fact not glossed over or any attempts made to re-write the Dahomey’s involvement in any atrocities. It was a part of the main plot of the story. I am no historian but the film is not a documentary and while I cannot say which parts align with documented history the film is just that, a film. It has to be allowed artistic license in which to tell its story. The story was told magnificently.
The casting was amazing. They were interesting with interesting point of views and personalities that were developed well in the short time we are with them. The film was shot well and visually intriguing scene to scene. I was emotionally invested in more than the main character of the film. That being said, Viola Davis as Nanisca and Thuso Mbedu as Mawi were believable, riveting and dynamic.
My favorite thing about the film was the spiritual undertone that presented in the music, dancing and training exercises. The music kept me present in each scene. It was seamlessly intertwined without having to be clumsily fed to the audience. There were some dialogue giving the cultural and spiritual mythology but they were subtly delivered in a way that made me want to do some post movie research of my own. Which is more than one can ask for following this genre of movie.
The Woman King is worth the trip to the theater. It’s a 9/10 for me. I will definitely rewatch it again when it starts streaming. Let me know your opinion when you’ve seen it.