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Viola Davis says 'The Woman King' offered "ownership, agency"

(Reuters) - As an actor and producer for Sony Pictures’ “The Woman King”, Viola Davis said the Black woman historical epic was unlike any project she’s worked on.

The movie, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9, is based on the true story of the Agojie, a real-life group of female warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s.

“What felt different was ownership, agency, controlling my voice,” said Academy Award winner Davis, who plays a general who trains the next generation of fighers.

“It’s our story. There is no white savior in the movie. There’s none. We save ourselves,” she told Reuters.

Director Gina Prince-Bythewood said the creative team knew early on they wanted to shoot the movie in Africa to ensure a realistic story.

“Let’s shoot where this took place, have our feet in the soil, allow us to have great scope,” she said.

“I knew I couldn’t do that with green screen. I didn’t want that for the actors. I wanted them to have a 360 environment to play in and make it feel real. I just didn’t want anything to take an audience out of the fact that this was a real story [from the] 1800s.”

For Prince-Bythewood, that took a mental toughness and for everyone to come together as a family.

Davis’ co-stars John Boyega and Thuso Mbedu have high hopes for audience responses to the film.

Boyega, who plays Dahomey’s King Ghezo, believes the epic will have a positive impact on audiences and the actresses will feel personally celebrated.

South African actress Mbedu said: “I’m honored to be a part of telling a story like this that is long overdue, that will hopefully change how society views women, views Black women, views dark-skinned Black women,” she said.

The film is due for release in the United States on Sept. 16.

Reporting by Danielle Broadway, Rollo Ross; editing by Richard Pullin

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