pics – courtesy TIFF
BY RENU MEHTA, TORONTO:
The Woman King has been slated as one of the top films of TIFF and indeed it was. The film premiered at Roy Thomson Hall on September 9 with the cast and crew in full glory and dressed to the nines. Oscar winner Viola Davis, the star of the film, was resplendent in a pink and orange gown but what was more captivating were her words delivered on behalf of black women.
“Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear,” she says. “And you know what. I feel like my entire life I have allowed myself to be defined by a culture, I have allowed myself to be defined by the naysayers. I was dropped out of a profession that is all about deprivation and so a lot of times you just allow other people to define you. And at 56 years old, I have come to the realization that I can define myself.”
Davis indeed gave a thrilling and believable performance in this epic tale that brings to life the true story of the Agojie, the all-female military regiment charged with protecting the embattled African Kingdom of Dahomey. The year is 1823 and all female military regiment, led by Davis’s character, is of struggle and liberation and brings to life the galvanizing travails of the Agojie, the all-female military regiment charged with protecting the embattled West African Kingdom of Dahomey from adversarial neighbours, European colonizers, and the horrors of the slave trade. The story dramatizes a turning point in world history through spectacular battle scense and delivers a riveting story of heroism, friendship and the power of women.
Davis, who is the first Black woman to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony for acting, spoke about the importance of self- worth and deprivation at the theatre to resounding applause.
“Everything starts with worth and I think there is a continual message in our culture that we are not worthy,” said Davis. “Our numbers surpass anyone else. We are 246 % more likely to die giving birth, 75% of women who are sex trafficked are young black girls. If you are raped by the age of 18 and you are black, you have a 68% chance of it happening again. There was a sense that we are the left overs and what I continue to say is I want to do for young black girls what Miss Tyson (actress and mentor Cicely Tyson) did for me when I was 7 years old.”
“She came to me through a broken down television set in a dilapidated apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island and what she delivered to me was something that can’t even be quantified in words. That’s what I would like to give to young black girls that you know just when the caterpillar calls it the end of the world and becomes a butterfly. That’s what I would give to them. And this movie is a gift to them.”