This film is excellent. Gut-wrenching, and difficult to watch on many levels (#metoo, slavery, complicity, violence), but it tells a truth that has long needed telling. Going into the film knowing about the role of this kingdom in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, I wondered how they would deal with the topic, and they in fact dealt with it head-on, intelligently, and also very well emotionally. They also made excellent use of the topography -they even used the termite mounds! So, the film, for me as a Black woman, even as a light-skinned Black woman, was extraordinarily satisfying. From the barbarity of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, to the terrors right at home of sexual abuse (or collusion with it) or physical abuse by family members or guardians, this film hits the mark on every level, not shying away from taking on the truth of the most difficult topics, acknowledging the complicity of Africans in the slave trade, while also telling the side of those who tried to stop the trade, and the difficulties in which African rulers found themselves at this time period. Interestingly, the acceptance of any women who could pass the rigorous entry requirements reminded me of Southern Iroquoian tribes, like the Tsalagi/Cherokee, and the northern tribes of the Iroquois Federation, who accepted, or adopted, people from other races and tribes, under the right circumstances. Here comes my review in detail, but to avoid spoilers, I’ve kept some giveaway lines in Spanish, (I watched it the second and third times in Spanish, but again in English the 4th and 5th times) if that helps.
In the start of this film I see women, beautiful Black Wonder Women, but as usual, larger to much larger than I am, able to fight men and win, but for the petite women like myself? 5′ 2″ , 115 llbs?
“Aquí la cazadora voy a ser yo, no la presa.”
Exactly. 23:16 -It is always better to be the hunter than the prey, when you have sisters, or even without sisters.
“Ya tienes una nueva familia.” 26:30,
People seem to forget that women in general tend to have better pain control than men, because we have to! If men had to give birth no babies would ever be born from what I’ve been told. 28:50, and this is an unexpected example of Chekhov’s rule, with two payoffs, one near the tragic end of a popular character, and the other with a final payoff, close to the very end.
Excellent Plebe prank!! 29:50, which of course is almost literally Chekhov’s gun…
and especially this:
“Si si llegas al final eres una de nosotras.” 32:27
Yes, Nawi!! She’s as petite as I am and far more brave with jumps! And defeats men twice our size!!? 1 Hour into the film, nearly halfway through.
What a hell of a jump! Third time watching this film and I still can’t understand how Nawi knew that the tower wasn’t too high. And courage !!
“Speak my language in my palace.”
The lack of respect on the part of Europeans, even for kings, toward African people is evident in both the way they are treated, and increasingly clearly to him, even how the mulatto Malik is treated, and no, I do not see him as a “tragic Mulatto” figure, but rather as an important portrayal of the point of view of those of us born of the fruit of this trade, as he is. Especially those of us light enough skinned to experience rejection by our own community, yet never to be accepted by the white or Mediterranean communities, even when we look exactly like them. The sense of belonging that he longs for, and that the women who pass the rigorous test to become Agojie find, is expressed many times, starting with the loyalty ceremony, which took me back to many a Sunday in church with my Grandma Marie (musically speaking, and in the swaying that we also do, still, so many years later, in the same way):
“My sisters, You live for me and I for you!!”
Malik never dreamed that there were kings or warriors in Africa. Of course not. Exactly what we in the diaspora are not wanted/intended/allowed to dream of, is to be taken seriously, let alone of Black women warriors or kings. Even today, especially for Black women. History matters.
Like the Greek (Cyprus?) Pentozali, like many people’s war dances, and pre-battle rituals. But more beautiful, the real Black Amazons. Like the Scottish (?) sword dances, and the Zeibek(iko), and …
Wow, this is taking our strength into account in battle, using our lightweight to jump over the male gunners and straight over the front line of the enemy. We are smaller, we are faster (in body movements, ducking, etc), we are more flexible, but we are never taught to use our advantages against men, because we’re not allowed to fight to defend ourselves.
“¡Considérate afortunado de no estar entre ellas ! / Consider yourself lucky not to be up there with them!”
So, the one drop rule had started already. Forgot to tell poor Malik, I guess. 1:40 of film
Jogging behind her whether they will be expelled or not. Beautiful loyalty.
Excellent job, Little Fly! My size: duck under, femoral artery slice, defend your General! Outstanding! Bravo Zulu, Nawi!
Feel bad for poor Malik, who finally realizes that he belongs no where, has no real home. 1:57:45
Exactly: the child is “not the one who needs killing,” in the words of some other film… 2:02
I have a feeling of dread as I watch those ships sail away at the very end of this film, because you know they’re going to come back, and there will be more of them.
I really love that final tribute to the women fallen in battle, by the religious lady part way after the credits begin. And, beautifully, the last name, as the screen blanks out, is Breonna…
“You have enemies gathering.
-You must Do Better than that.”
I love the interplay between the general and her ‘seer’ as she begins to read the general’s dream interpretation.
As I mentioned in the start of this review, the film explicitly deals with some impossible choices, and the attempts by some rulers to push back on the trade. The kingdom of Dahomey used these women warriors for two hundred years, but only one or two rulers tried to put a halt to the vicious cycle caused by the trade. This is, I imagine, likely why @GPBmadeit chose this precise king. I checked out a BBC article and the Smithsonian magazine article (from which this public domain image comes) about the movie and a couple of other sources that I wasn’t sure about, before I watched it. So yes the kingdom traded, under duress, but at least one ruler did try to put a stop to it.
Thanks again, to Gina Prince-Bythewood, for fighting to make this thoughtful, nuanced, complex, and powerful film, and for showing the conflicting choices, the pain, and the hope “that the dark past has taught us” to work toward. The Woman King is both heartbreaking and inspiring. A needed, but not yet sufficient corrective to the historical record. Speaking of which, here is the Smithsonian Magazine article I mentioned earlier. Thank you, ladies, for your work. Watch #TheWomanKing
Wu suu !
Click here for:
Learning via Shows -B5, Hakan: Muhafiz/The Protector, Sihirli Annem, Lupin, or La Casa de Papel/Money Heist, & El Ministerio del Tiempo Reviews
Adult Literacy or College Level Learning Holistic College Algebra & GED/High School Lesson Plan Sets,
Thoughtful Readers, please consider reading about #ProjectDoBetter. This review is part of my personal contribution to helping to increase empathy and compassion in our world. Story, as part of how we see our world, helps us make sense of and define our actions in this world. And remember how important story is also as part of this project. Let’s Do Better.
Shira Destinie A. Jones, MPhil, MAT, BSCS
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.