Vol. 16, No. 11 – Feb 22 – Mar 7, 2023 – Movie Review

Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
The Woman King – Netflix

4 out of 4 palm trees

The Woman King” is based on incredible true events from the 1800s involving an all-female elite force of warriors known as the Agojie that guarded the African Kingdom of Dahomey. A new young king Ghezo (John Boyega), had just taken power. Their enemy, the Oyo Empire joined forces with the Mahi people to raid Dahomey villages and sell their captives to European slavers. The powerful Oyo was led by General Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukoya) and had new guns and horses, but King Ghezo had his own fearsome weapon: the Agojie led by General Nanisca (Viola Davis).

In the Kingdom of Dahomey, the Agojie were respected and revered and the Dahomey people were not aloud to look upon them, rather bow their heads in honor of their service to the king and kingdom. They lived in their own palace, where men were never allowed, where they trained and lived comfortably among each other thriving on traditions of dance and culture in a world set apart. They trained in hand-to-hand combat, using knives, machetes and spears as well as some limited use of ball and musket firearms.

In order to fight with the Agojie, young women from the Dahomey and those captured in raids from other villages were offered the opportunity to train and had to past a final test in front of the king at the palace. A young girl named Nawi (Thuso Mbedu) was dropped off at the palace after her father tried several times unsuccessfully to wed her off to older men. Nawi was stubborn and always questioned authority, but was taken under the wing of Izogie (Lashana Lynch) who tried to keep her out of trouble and in good graces with General Nanisca.

Nawi was first to complete the brutal challenges of the final test and caught the eye of the king as well as recognition from Nanisca. Nawi had a chance opportunity to speak with Nanisca alone, who explained the she was only trying to keep Nawi safe and from harm with her harsh rule. Nanisca noticed that Nawi had a scar on her left shoulder and was very taken back. Many years before Nanisca was captured and raped repeatedly by Oba and his men and ended up pregnant. She hid her pregnancy, had a baby girl and Agojie warrior took her away after she was born.

Unknown to anyone else Nanisca had made a small cut on the baby’s shoulder and placed a small shark tooth inside to always be able to recognize it was her if their paths ever crossed again. Nawi was shocked when she was able to pull a small shark tooth from her scar and felt terrible for what she represented to Nanisca, but Nanisca said she had nothing to do with the terrible experiences of her past. This however, was another reason why Nanisca wanted to end General Oba and soon after the Agojie along with male warriors ambushed the Oyo camp.

Nanisca was unable to find Oba during the battle, and the Oyo ended up retreating having been overcome by the Agojie. Nawi was no where to be found once it ended, so Nanisca returned to Dahomey believing she had been killed in the battle. Nawi had been knocked unconscious and was captured with several other Agojie and had been loaded on a wagon to be taken to the slave port for sale by Oba. One of the Agojie was able to escape and went back to Dahomey to tell Nanisca what had happened.

King Ghezo had just appointed Nanisca as the Woman King, and was going to host a celebration to announce it to the kingdom, so forbid her to go and try to rescue Nawi. Though recently discovered, Nanisca’s family bonds were strong, so she defied his command and set out with others who volunteered to go to the slave port and rescue Nawi and the others.

Runtime 2h 15m

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