The Woman King: Bold, thought-provoking film


  • A historical epic inspired by true events that took place in one of the most powerful states of Africa in the 18th & 19th centuries

The Woman King tells a story about a general called Nanisca who was ruling the army in the Kingdom of Dahomey. She was fighting against the Oyo Empire and Mahi people who were raiding Dahomey villages and taking captives who were sold to European slavers. Nanisca was working with the King to end this trade that was tearing their village apart.

Fighting alongside were the strongest of soldiers collectively named the Agojie who were all women securing the Kingdom of Dahomey. The main character is played by Viola Davis and before I start to describe how Viola played the role to its core, she is well known by her ability to own a role to the extent the audience cannot differentiate the two of them. In Woman King, Viola is no different. She was Nanisca and you did not tell them apart.

The first scene of the movie which is set in Benin of West Africa opens to a fight breaking out between Nanisca’s team and a group of kidnappers who tried to pretend to be farmers. After a successful rescue mission, Nanisca came back to her village which welcomed her back alongside her team with bowed heads to symbolize their respect for their bravery.

The second scene introduces a new character named Nawi (Thuso Mbedu) who was in the Crowd. Upon a sight of Nanisca and her team, her eyes sparked. When the crowd dispersed, Nawi got back home only to find out that her father had found her a husband who resembles Nawi’s father’s age. After a disagreement broke out when she disagreed to get married, her father forcefully offered her to serve King Ghezo (John Boyega) without knowing that it was in his daughter’s interest.

His request saw her daughter being guided by Izogie (Lashana Lynch) who was growing fond of Nawi.

After the rescue of the young women who were taken captives by Obi Ade (Jimmy Odukoya) Nanisca convinced the new King to sell other assets that were produced in the Kingdom including Gold and Palm Oil to reduce the amount of slaves that were exchanged with weapons.

With the new wave of girls joining Nasisca’s army, they began to be heavily trained as they were being prepared to take part in a contest to determine their level of strength. The training proved how eager Nawi was to serve her King and become as strong as Nanisca was.

A short while afterwards, Dahomey was graced with General Oba who led the first crew of men that died by the hands of Nasisca’s army in the first scene. His intention was to exchange slaves with weapons and the slaves were to be sold to new merchants who were visiting the Kingdom at the same time.

When Nanisca saw Oba while he was being welcomed by the King, her demeanor changed as her mind jogged to the time Oba raped her in front of his friends when the two were still teenagers.

The arrival of Oba came with two Europeans named Malik (Jordan Bolger) and Santo (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) who were planning to buy slaves from the Dahomey before transporting them to Portuguese with them.

These two were given an offer to watch a ceremony that saw the girls going through a number of tests that proved their strength to join the King’s guard. It was after this ceremony when Nanisca was complimenting Nawi’s scars calling them ‘marks of a true warrior’ when she noticed a mark on her back.

Nawi then revealed that she was an orphan and when her mother gave birth to her, she left a mark that would make her identifiable if they were to ever meet in the future. This shocked Nanisca to the core and she fought to hide it from her face as she dismissed herself to her chambers.

A swearing ceremony was arranged for the new girls joining the Igojie and at night, Nawi escaped to the forest to meet Malik who she was unknowingly becoming attached to. Malik hinted to her about Oba’s intention to connect with other tribes and march on Dahomey.

Nawi hurried back to the Kingdom and told Nanisca, however things took a turn when she found the general in her most vulnerable state. Nanisca told her about her story when she was raped, gave birth to a baby girl and left her shark tooth in her left shoulder. It was at this moment Nawi found out that she was the daughter.

The transitions from one scene to another matched a wave of emotions that were communicated in the two hour movie. The strength and how it changed to nervousness when Nanisca found out that her baby girl was still alive could be felt beyond the screen.

The songs carrying an African element and how they were sung with so much passion and emotion expressed how this film was carefully created and written.

I rate the Woman King 9.8 out of 10.