Viola Davis is addressing the controversy surrounding her new film.
“The Woman King” is loosely based on the all-female warrior unit that protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey during the 17th to 19th centuries. The film was well-received by critics and audiences alike, scoring over 90 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes for both critic and audiences reviews, but it’s recently faced a bit of controversy.
There are fans online who are boycotting the film due to the fact it doesn’t address the Dahomey kingdom’s involvement in slavery.
Speaking to Variety about the fine line between historical accuracy and entertainment, the actress admitted that “most of the story is fictionalized.”
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“We entered the story where the kingdom was in flux, at a crossroads. They were looking to find some way to keep their civilization and kingdom alive,” Davis said when asked about the #BoycottWomanKing movement on Twitter. “It wasn’t until the late 1800s that they were decimated. Most of the story is fictionalized. It has to be.”
Julius Tennon, her husband, co-produced the movie with Davis and added that it was a difficult line to skirt when adapting historical material.
“We are now what we call ‘edu-tainment.’ It’s history but we have to take license. We have to entertain people. If we just told a history lesson, which we very well could have, that would be a documentary,” he explained. “Unfortunately, people wouldn’t be in the theatres doing the same thing we saw this weekend. We didn’t want to shy away from the truth. The history is massive and there are truths on that that are there. If people want to learn more, they can investigate more.”
Davis said that the part that attracted her about the story was how it empowered women and spoke to their struggles in a universal way that still applies now.
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“Part of the story that hit me as an artist was these women were unwanted. They were recruited between the ages of eight and 14. They were the women who were not considered desirable,” she said. “No one wanted to marry them. They were unruly. They were recruited by the king to fight for the kingdom of Dahomey. They were not allowed to marry or have children. The ones who refused the call were beheaded. That’s also a part of the story.”
“The Woman King” is now showing in theatres.