The Viola Davis-led film, The Woman King, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, made quite the splash over the weekend, debuting at number one and raking in a whopping $19 million at the box office, according to Variety.
The film, released on Friday, tells the remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Inspired by true events, The Woman King follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca (Davis) as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life.
After viewing this film myself over opening weekend, I can honestly say that it’s arguably one of the best films to come out this year. Between Bythewood’s keen eye, Davis’ strength and fierceness, and the phenomenal supporting cast—which consists of an electric Thuso Mbedu, a magnetic Lashana Lynch, regal John Boyega, and a captivating Shelia Atim—The Woman King is an unforgettable film that will stick with you long after the credits stop rolling and leave you both moved and inspired by our history. And it’s because of the latter point that makes it almost incredulous to believe that this film almost didn’t come to fruition.
“Everybody looked at me like I was insane to even think this could be a commercial movie,” producer Cathy Schulman said, as previously reported by The Root. “I remember them saying, ‘You’d need a lot of money to do that, with the battles, but it’s the kind of movie you should make for $5 million.’”
Added Davis, “We talked to a lot of people and got rejected. We were trying to reason with them. What is it that is standing in the way of you saying ‘yes’ and accepting this movie and giving us a proper budget?”
All in all, what it boiled down to was studios’ unbelief in the fact that a film starring dark-skinned Black women who are kicking ass and taking names would do well at the box office and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But as shown through the plethora of overwhelmingly positive reviews and online awards-buzz chatter that’s already happening less than three days after the film’s premiere, it’s clear that there’s an audience for this type of content. And I, for one, truly do love to see it.
The Woman King is out now, in theaters everywhere.