I wish I could say I followed the throngs to the cinema to see Woman King. I did go. But unfortunately, there were not many in the theatre with me. In fact, we made it a girls night. With a friend, my bestie and my sister along, I took in all of the glory of the underestimated film. It was truly a moment. If you have not seen it, I urge you to go. It is more than its controversy and worthy of the seven year commitment it took the cast and crew to make the film.
I am a leader for the youth and young adult ministry at my church. Former secondary school educator. Emerging filmmaker. Writer. Daughter. Sister. Friend. And proudly, an AfricanAmerican female. It is with the lens of those identities that I watched the film, and in full reciprocity, surprisingly for most films, the movie spoke to every level of who I am and who I am becoming. With that, this is less of a review and more of a first-hand account.
Viola Davis was Viola Davis in that she gave a powerful performance. Viola Davis was not Viola Davis in that this performance did not include the acute emoting trademarks we have come to associate with the powerhouse actor. She became something else. While still bringing her tour de force acting, her communicative facial expressions, her infamous walk, there was a subtlety, a nuance. To say more, in my opinion, this was one of Davis’ most emotional roles. Not overtly, but still with such passion and vigor and intention. We didn’t see the full-body cry, that rightfully earned her an Oscar. I have no motivation to belittle that kind of performance, it’s rare. But this role, considered by the actor to be her Magnus opus, required different layers, and an opening of such layers in the backdrop of war and masculinity and honor and brut strength. She created a refined and brave femininity. But then there was another type of courage. A courage that faces the beast, and defies the commands of rulers, if they oppose the leading of the heart. And still, Davis felt like home, felt like a mother, like every little girl’s hero while
fighting the greatest battle one can ever face- one’s self.
Davis carefully crafts and sculpts her character, with ease and mastery. However, she is not alone. The cast is brilliant. The ladies in particular stand their ground against the giant Davis, under the sharp direction of Gina Prince-Bythewood. But Woman King is more than entertainment, and those ladies do more than act.
The warriors on screen were fighting for us. For every black woman pushed out of the business agreement. Every child unknowingly bearing upon her the decisions so impassively made before she ever had a say. And the scars she carries that will unwittingly lead to her healing and the bonding of the past and present. A unity necessary to restore the hope of the future.
It is not with apathy that I ignore the sordid past of slavery and how even other Africans played a role. It is the continued brilliance, growth, and resolve of being black that I celebrate. I can’t number the amount of movies we would have to boycott, remove from streaming, or strike from history if we counted the sins, misinformation, or murky representation of films depicted by other cultures, countries, or races. The Black Lives Matters Movement, and other organizations supporting the cause are not hypocrites, they are bringing us all on a journey, so we can all be better human beings and a better nation.
That healing thread was woven throughout the film. Like most of us, I am both a leader and someone in motion. As a Christian leader, I point others to Christ, as I turn to him myself to seek renewal. If we don’t do that, if we don’t heal, we can’t lead. If we don’t lead. We can’t reign. If we don’t reign. Inevitably, someone else will. Someone who will tell us our stories are not true. Or that they are imperfect. Or that they are not good enough. Which is to say, our light is inconsequential, we are tarnished and imperfect, and we will never ever be good enough.
But like these women, these beautiful women, who resist acceptance and the norms of society,
- not the right color, not marrying or bearing children, not wanted, and until this year not known or celebrated by the world. Yet, if only, we had a woman king today. To forge a path of power and empathy, for her people and for her warriors. I submit, that she is all of us. That it is all of our responsibility.
Please go and see the movie again or for the first time. After you watch, be active. Make peace with the children you’ve left behind, whatever that may symbolize for you. Stand resolute in your alliance with a people that may not look like you, in as many ways possible. Become the hope of the next generation, even if the world is afraid to see you shine. Keep fighting, through the thickets and the adversaries, there is a glorious, bloody victory in your striving. And when you have won, wear your crown and dance to the drums. My prayer for you is that you realize you can birth and proudly bring into this world something as beautiful and powerful and resolute as you. Embrace that opportunity with all of your might.
Written By: Kelly Michael