In his The Woman King review, Rotten Tomatoes and CCA critic Vladimir Jean-Gilles calls TIFF standout The Women King a clear Oscar contender.
I have always been a fan of traditional African storytelling. Growing up, I was obsessed with these epic tales of ancient heroes, kings and queens who made a strong impact on history. Figures like Mansa Musa or the Warrior-Queen Amina Mohamud. The kid in me always dreamed of seeing such stories told on the big screen.
Fast forward 20 years later and here comes the TIFF premiere of The Woman King starring Viola Davis. Though the marketing of the film focuses heavily on her character, the movie actually tells the story of the Agojie, an all-female warrior division who protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century. Fun fact: This is the warrior unit that inspired the creation of Black Panther’s now iconic Dora Milaje.
The trailers sold us the promise of a heartfelt cinematic action epic, a promise on which The Woman King delivers on all front. Prince-Bythewood also proved to be the perfect director to helm of this project, having already worked on successful action films such as Netflix’ Old Guard. To no one’s surprise, Viola Davis delivers a fantastic performance. Watching this 57-year-old award winning actress put herself through such a physically and emotionally demanding role is simply incredible. Here she plays the leading role of general Nanisca, a stoic warrior who takes on the responsibility of training a new generation of Agojie as their way of life becomes threatened by the colonial ambitions of outside forces.
From its breathtaking cinematography, a poignant musical score composed by Terence Blanchard and of course the strength of its ensemble cast, The Woman King has now set itself as an instant Oscar contender. Had you told me 20 years ago that I would be having such as cinematic experience, I would have had a hard time to believe you. But here’s to hoping that The Woman King will encourage Hollywood to dive deeper into the rich source material that is pre-colonial African history. We now have the proof that it can work.
STRONG BLACK WOMEN TAKE CENTRE STAGE IN ON THE COME UP | TIFF 2022