From the moment Gina Prince-Bythewood became a director, her strength has always resided in her commitment to love stories. In her films, sumptuous twilight passions happen on a basketball court, they occur between generations, on the ladder rungs of show business, and between immortals. They center Black women carrying power and interiority, while finding strength within themselves, and often, other Black women. With her Netflix produced film, “The Old Guard,” she continued those themes on a grander scale. But nothing in her filmography can wholly prepare you for the lushness of her latest work. The Woman King
Yes and no. The basic framework of the story is inspired by true events, but it is heavily fictionalized and dramatized. The Agojie was an all-female warrior group that did exist and they did protect the kingdom of Dahomey (modern-day Benin) in West Africa.
In going into “The Woman King,” a big-hearted action-epic whose major challenge is being sincere and historical while fulfilling its blockbuster requirements, you might feel some hesitation. Especially in a cinematic landscape that prizes broad statements on race over sturdy storytelling. You might wonder how Prince-Bythewood can shape a tale centering the Agojie warriors—an all-woman group of soldiers sworn to honor and sisterhood—hailing from the West African kingdom of Dahomey, when one considers their hand in perpetuating the transatlantic slave trade. It’s a towering task approached by Prince-Bythewood and screenwriter Dana Stevens with gentle sensitivity, and a fierce desire to show Black women as the charters of their own destiny.
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