With Viola Davis, ‘A Mulher Rei’ has a small participation of Brazil in the plot – Cultura

Viola Davis, dressed as a warrior, outdoors, at night, in a battle scene in The Woman King
In the film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, Viola Davis is the commander of the protective warriors of the Kingdom of Daom, where today Benin (photo: Sony/Disclosure)

Almost as difficult as the battles the warriors of “The Woman King” face was getting Viola Davis’ new film off the ground. The feature, which opens this Thursday (22/9) in Brazil, does not, after all, have the blockbuster profile that traditional Hollywood seeks. For starters, it stars almost entirely women, and, reinforcing the resistance that the script would encounter, they are all black.

It’s a scary movie for the industry, says the actress and producer in interviews with director Gina Prince-Bythewood. They spent six years looking for who would fund the project and, if it weren’t for the box office success of “Wonder Woman” and “Black Panther”, it might never have been produced, believe the duo.

“When the opportunity to make this movie came, I thought: will Hollywood ever be ready? Well, we had to wait for these movies to change the game. Then it took Viola’s fame and my experience in another movie of Then the pieces finally fell into place,” says Bythewood, who directed “The Old Guard,” so successful it will become a franchise.

“The King Woman” is, after all, a US$ 50 million blockbuster – the equivalent of more than R$ 260 million -, with special effects, action sequences, sets and costumes as far-fetched and grandiose as those of superhero films. . It would be difficult to secure the budget under normal conditions, but the premise of the plot was enough to stop the film in many studios.


The long tour of Africa from the beginning of the 19th century, to what is now Benin, tells the real story of the ahosi, warriors who protected the ancient Kingdom of Daom – yet another meeting point with the “Black Panther”, as the dora milaje de Wakanda were inspired by them.

Viola Davis plays their leader at a crucial moment for the kingdom, as the king, played by John Boyega, has come under pressure to end his participation in the slave trade to the Americas. It was thus, in real history and on screen, that Daom obtained much of its wealth, selling blacks captured from other tribes to Europeans.

The idea for the film came during a trip of one of the producers to Benin. Developing the story, however, was a challenge, because there were few documents, films, books and articles on the subject.

Bythewood thought that if “Black Panther” could attract audiences by tapping into parts of this true story, a film exclusively about Daom could do the same. More: if “Braveheart” and “Gladiator”, two inspirations, proved that civilizations of the past yield great modern spectacles, why have African peoples never seen themselves on screen on this scale?


“This story was ignored, silenced, as were many others that are outside the Hollywood standard. The fact that we now have ‘The Woman King’ and ‘Black Panther’ coexist is a true miracle.”

With a box office of US$ 1.3 billion, or R$ 7 billion, “Black Panther” (Marvel) was a key piece to prove that there is an audience hungry for representation. Since 2018, several studios have funded projects that follow this line.

Similarly, the effort to diversify who creates the projects that Hollywood will shoot has increased. In the case of “The King Woman”, not only is a black woman directing one of the biggest budgets of the year, but other women and blacks in positions of command behind the scenes, where they are rarely seen.

Polly Morgan does the photography, Terence Blanchard does the soundtrack, Terilyn A. Shropshire does the editing, Akin McKenzie is in charge of the art direction, Gersha Phillips creates the costumes, and so on. It was something important for Viola Davis to also agree to produce the film.


In a video interview, she says that she has heard many people talk about the “cultural importance” of “A Mulher Rei”, but she refutes the speech. “For us [negros], I’m sure. This is our normal. That’s what we’ve always known how to do. These people have spent their lives training for this. You are faced with a historic moment, but simply because you are finally realizing our potential.”

In addition to Viola Davis and John Boyega, the cast is also headed by Lashana Lynch, from “007: No time to die” and “Capit Marvel”, in addition to Sheila Atim and Thuso Mbedu, from the series “The underground railroad”. In the film, Mbedu plays a young rf who starts training to become an ahosi. Her fictional relationship with the head of the group runs parallel to the surrounding historical setting.


For Brazilians, it will be possible to capture, here and there, a few words in Portuguese and several references to Brazil. As some of the main financiers and beneficiaries of the African slave trade, the Portuguese are present in “A Mulher Rei”, bidding in a market that today arouses horror.

There is a Portuguese character and a Brazilian character, played by Hero Fiennes Tiffin and Jordan Bolger, who are actually British. Perhaps that is why the film’s publicity tour included Rio de Janeiro, which Viola Davis visited this week.

Davis arrived in Rio de Janeiro for a launch party for “A Mulher Rei” and, even before the trip, said that Brazil is an important part of the history of blacks and racism and that, therefore, it could not be ignored by the plot.

Despite the visit, his first to the country, with an air of tourism, it is part of a very serious effort to take the public to the cinemas. “This movie needs to make money, and that leaves me conflicted. If it doesn’t, what’s that going to mean? That black women can’t lead the world at the box office. That’s it. Period,” she says.

“That’s not how it works for white films. If one fails, they make another one. So it comes down to the people who go to the movies, not me or my work. I don’t want them to go because of the ‘impact. cultural’ that he has because he is black, but because he entertains like any other. If whites and blacks are really the same, then I challenge the public to prove me – not for my career, but for the world and the cinema that we want from now on forward.”


(USA, Canada, 2022). Directed by: Gina Prince-Bythewood. With Viola Davis, Lashana Lynch and John Boyega. It premieres this Thursday (22/9), in theaters of the Cineart, Cinemark, Cinpolis and Cinesercla networks.

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